How to Start a Pet Crematory

The United States is a nation of pet lovers and many owners choose cremation for the final disposition for their beloved animals when they die. As a pet death specialist, you will meet and sensitively deal with clients who have recently lost a pet. You'll store the body in a temperature controlled facility until it is cremated. After cremation, you'll return the ashes to the pet owner or dispose of them according to your client's wishes. Other services might include a pet funeral home, cemetery or mausoleum.

Choose a Site

Contact the local zoning board to find areas where you can operate a crematorium. Usually, crematories are sited away from residences, health facilities and schools. An industrial park or warehouse district may be a suitable choice. As well as the cremation furnace, you’ll need a large cold storage area to keep the remains prior to cremation. Other facilities include a reception area to greet bereaved pet owners, a service area for veterinarian hospitals to deliver bodies and a secondary storage area for the ashes.

Permits and Licenses

In some states, you will need to apply for a crematory operating license; fees and license periods vary by state. New York, for example, charged $150 for a two-year license at the time of publication. The state environmental protection agency regulates furnace emissions and has specific permits regarding animal crematories. You may also need a solid waste permit if you bury or dispose of remains to landfill rather than returning the ashes to the pet owner. Expect the EPA to inspect your facility at least annually; officials may test the land to ensure no contamination of groundwater occurs.

Finances and Reserve Funds

As well as the land and buildings to house the crematory, you'll need an inventory of transportation caskets, urns and grave markers, cleaning equipment, trucks for picking up animals, contracts, record-keeping equipment, identification tags and cremation certificates. Start up costs for crematoria are very high. Establishing a reserve fund is important, as a breakdown in equipment can put you out of business.

Marketing and Networks

Pet funeral services are difficult to advertise without seeming insensitive, so word of mouth goes a long way. Veterinarian hospitals can provide a lot of business. Every time a pet dies in the hospital, the owner has the option of collecting the remains or paying for cremation services; many choose cremation. Keep your prices competitive and your service reliable to earn the hospitals' business. To win the custom of individual pet owners, create a website and list it on Internet trade directories. Post fliers and pamphlets with pet-based businesses, such as pet stores, animal welfare societies and grooming salons.

Training and Professional Standards

Few states have legal standards for pet cremation and the industry is self-regulated. The International Association of Pet Cemeteries & Crematories runs a training and accreditation program for pet death service professionals. Covering best practice for pet transportation, cremation, record-keeping, facility standards, staff training and health and safety, the IAOPCC sets out more than 240 pet death services management standards that accredited members are expected to meet. Accreditation entitles the holder to display an IAOPCC plaque, giving customers' peace of mind that your business follows best practice. The Pet Loss Professionals Alliance also provides education for its members.

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About the Author

Jayne Thompson earned an LL.B. in Law and Business Administration from the University of Birmingham and an LL.M. in International Law from the University of East London. She practiced in various “Big Law” firms before launching a career as a business writer. Her articles have appeared on numerous business sites including Typefinder, Women in Business, Startwire and Indeed.com.