Funeral home director Jerry Pettigrass is no stranger to helping people after the loss of loved ones. But, for years, he's wanted to do the same after the loss of beloved pets.
That's why Pettigrass is soon to have the only pet crematorium in Cayuga County, which will operate in a building behind Pettigrass Funeral Home at 196 Genesee St. in Auburn.
Pettigrass sensed that, for many clients, pets were part of the family "as much as anyone else," and that some even wanted to be buried with the ashes of their animals.
“So many people are animal lovers and have had numerous pets over the years, and there’s nothing locally that is an option for them," he said.
The pet cremation service is expected to be open by Feb. 20 — which is also National Love Your Pet Day. Pets can be picked up from a veterinarian's office or an owner's home, which Pettigrass mentioned is a unique service for the area.
"Just like we would go get your mom or dad, same thing for your dog, your cat, whatever your beloved animal is. We would come in a professional manner and bring your animal to our facility for the process," he said.
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Pettigrass has purchased a different vehicle so he wouldn't be transporting animal remains in the same one he uses for his funeral home.
Cremation pricing is based on the pet's weight, and includes a carved wooden urn, paw print, locket of hair, cremation certificate, laminated prayer card and online obituary.
Pettigrass will only do cremations of individual pets, not communal cremations involving more than one animal. He also can't cremate animals heavier than 200 pounds.
Most cemeteries allow people to be buried with pets inside a casket, but Pettigrass' business doesn't operate a cemetery and won't be coordinating burials of animals remains, he said.
The idea is to return the ashes to the pet's people, Pettigrass continued. "And the family can decide at that point," he said. However, calling hours, visitation or funeral services for pets may eventually become options.
Pettigrass observed, as a funeral home owner, that some people have a common worry in the back of their mind: How can they know they're getting their loved one back? That can still be a concern for people who want their pet cremated, he said. But if a pet owner — or a designated stand-in — wants to view the cremation process, they can do so from a viewing room in the building. Another feature Pettigrass wanted to provide was a room to spend time alone with the pet before it's cremated if the chance wasn't available beforehand.
"I want them to feel comfortable and know we're a reliable and honest facility that treats your animal just like we would your mom or dad," he said.