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August 30th, 2011
August 30th, 2011

UK Pet Crematorium Owner Charged with Six Counts of Fraud

Emma Bents, owner of Peak Pet Cremations, was sentenced to eight months in jail after pleading guilty to six counts of fraud.

Bournville Brown
Bournville Brown
Today Emma Bents, owner of Peak Pet Cremations, was sentenced to eight months in jail after pleading guilty to six counts of fraud. In August 2009, the bodies of six pets - three dogs, two cats and a guinea pig were found dumped in a field in Derbyshire, England. Upon further investigation, it was found that the owners of the pets had paid their veterinary hospital to have the remains cremated through Peak Pet Cremations in Heage. After the discovery of a broken down crematory unit and hundreds of bags of medical waste, Bents plead guilty to the six cases of fraud.

“Not all pet crematoriums are heartless and fraudulent but the public trust in our industry is damaged just the same - and rightly so,” states Jocelyne Monette, owner of Pet Loss Care Memorial Center in Victoria, BC and member of the Ethics Committee for the Pet Loss Professionals Alliance. “A respectful and dignified cremation is the last step in a long life of unconditional love that asks for nothing in return. Pet owners entrust us to do right by their pet. How can people within the pet cremation industry turn their back on not only the pet but on the surviving family and treat the remains like garbage or a waste product?”

The Ugly Side of the Pet Crematory Business

Our pets are important members of our families. For many of us, they become our four-legged, or winged, children that may not necessarily be welcome at the dinner table but often spend their entire lives sharing our bed every night. And when a pet dies, the feelings of sorrow and loss can be equal to the loss of a human loved one - more so in some cases.

In the US alone, our beloved pets are a $50 billion dollar a year industry. From designer dogs to advanced veterinary health care, North Americans are mad about their pets and stop at nothing to guarantee the health and happiness of their furry or feathered family members.

Unfortunately, like most big dollar businesses, there are those that are unscrupulous and take advantage of our emotional vulnerability when it comes to our pets. Puppy mills, food contaminated with chemicals to increase profitability, and many others have embraced this moneymaking machine in attempt to take more then their equal share of the pie at the cost of our pets health and well-being.

It was only a matter of time before someone linked the dollars we spend on our pets while they are alive with the dollars we would spend to ensure that they are treated with the same dignity and respect in death.

Fraud in the Pet Cremation Industry

Over the last decade, several pet crematoriums have hit the news after bodies of people´s pets were discovered dumped in fields or garbage dumps. The latest case that not only hit the news but also the courts, concluded this summer in the UK.

In August 2009, three dogs, two cats and a guinea pig were found dumped in a field in Derbyshire, England. One of the dogs, a chocolate Border collie named ´Bournville Brown´, was micro chipped, aiding in tracking down the owners.

Along with the distress of identifying the body of their precious dog that had been outside in the elements for over a week, the Browns´ also had to wonder whose ashes were sitting on their mantelpiece.

After the Browns´ explained to the RSPCA that they had paid for a private, single pet cremation and had what they thought were the ashes of ´Bournville´ returned, an investigation of the veterinary clinic initially and eventually the pet crematorium ensued.

Emma Bent, owner of Peak Pet Cremations in Heage, initially blamed the ´loss´ of the bodies on theft, a somewhat laughable defence tactic considering the street value of the ´loot´ involved.

Bent eventually admitted to six charges of fraud after over a hundred bags of medical waste that was supposed to be destroyed was found in a back shed along with ´decomposing animals and body parts´.

Judge David Puglsey of the Derby Crown Court sentenced Bent to eight months in jail.

The Real Cost of Pet Crematorium Fraud

Sadly, for thousands of pet owners in the Derbyshire area, there is no knowing what happened to their four-legged family members. Between November 2006 and August 2009, Bent invoiced one area veterinary hospital for the disposal of 2,838 pets.

Bent claims the crematorium broke down several years prior and since then she had been burning and burying pets in a field.

Judge Pugsley described Bent as “cynical, callous and calculating” and when pronouncing sentence, stated: “This case isn´t just about that (environmental damage) but about what you did to people who were vulnerable and were exploited”.

“I´ve had to go on anti-depressants because of it,” explains pet owner Angela Moore. “It has just shattered our lives. We are going to have to live with what Emma did to us for the rest of our days.”

“Her unlawful behaviour,” explains Peter Rutherford of the Environment Agency, “resulted in pet owners being left very distressed and saved her large sums in costs that legitimate businesses would have had to pay.”

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The Long Term Effects of Pet Crematorium Fraud

“Beyond the initial distress, there is the long term emotional damage pet crematorium fraud causes in a community. Any trust in the industry is destroyed,” explains Jocelyne Monette.

The Pet Loss Professionals Alliance is working to not only put a stop to fraud within the pet crematorium industry but to also educate the pet owning public on an often misunderstood industry.

“Nobody talks about death - human or pet - in our society,” continues Monette. “Especially the part that comes after the death - the disposal. In the pet cremation industry, especially here in British Columbia, what happens to the remains of our pets is very much under the umbrella of veterinary medicine. And yet do you discuss your mother´s funeral arrangements with a funeral director or her doctor?”

By playing middleman, your veterinarian removes the uncomfortable-ness of discussing what to do with your deceased pet but in doing so also removes the opportunity to ask questions, make educated decisions, and build trust with the pet crematorium.

You trust your vet and assume that, in turn, they trust their pet crematorium. But a vet is not an expert on pet cremation or pet crematoriums. They do not know what volume a facility is capable of processing or how clean a crematory should or should not be. And what happens if they have not visited the crematorium for a few years and since then the facilities have fallen into disrepair?

“In Victoria, Pet Loss Care Memorial Center is trying to change how we think and discuss the loss of our pets,” states Monette. “We do not hide what we do or how we do it. We open our doors to pet owners and welcome the opportunity to show off our facilities. Like our clients, we are pet lovers who know what it is like to lose a pet and sympathize with our clients during this time of grief.  We are compassionate and understanding professionals who take pride in what we do and we do it very well.”

It is too late to help the pet owners in Derbyshire who will never know what happened to their pets´ remains and, unfortunately, it is not the worst case of fraudulent pet crematorium cases - it is only the most recent.

How to Avoid Pet Crematorium Fraud
  • Find out from your veterinarian which pet crematorium they use.
  • Contact your local Better Business Bureau and ask if they have received any complaints or testimonials on the crematorium.
  • Contact the pet crematorium and ask whether their Private or Individual Cremation is a single pet cremation or a partitioned cremation. Many pet crematoriums call a partitioned cremation an individual cremation when in fact there are multiple animals in the crematorium. Although there is space between the animals, ´active commingling´ of the ashes takes place. You may be paying for what you think is a single pet cremation and receiving only the ashes of your pet when you are not.
  • Ask for a tour of the pet crematorium or view the cremation. A pet crematorium should have nothing to hide and welcome visitors to view the facilities by appointment or be present at their pet´s cremation, again, by appointment.
  • If the crematorium allows you to visit their facilities, ask to see the cremation unit. Although some are offsite and a separate appointment may be necessary, they should still welcome a visit and be happy to show you the grounds and inside the building to view the cremation unit.
  • Many pet crematoriums allow family members to view their pet´s private cremation (additional charges may apply). If the facility does not offer this service, ask why.
  • If you do not want to be there to witness the cremation, ask whether a friend may attend or that it be video recorded.

Pet Loss Care Memorial Center opened in November 2010 in Victoria, BC by owner Jocelyne Monette. Monette is a member of the Pet Loss Professionals Alliance (PLPA), a partner of the governing body for human after life care, the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association (ICCFA). Monette sits on the PLPA´s Standards and Ethics Committee and helped develop the Code of Ethics and the Definitions and Standards for the Cremation of Companion Animals. She is a Certified Pet Loss Professional through the PLPA and is trained in all aspects of pet after life care as well as helping owners through the loss of their pet. Monette has been in the pet cremation industry for 7 years and opened Eternal Companions Pet Memorial Centre in Montreal, Quebec in 2004.

For More Information:

Pet Loss Care Memorial Center
485 John Street, Victoria, BC

Pet Loss Professionals Alliance (PLPA)

International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association (ICCFA)

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