Closed pet cemetery, crematorium under investigation
Last Updated: Friday, August 17, 2007 | 5:00 PM CT
Manitoba Conservation is investigating a pet cemetery and crematorium near La Salle, Man., that has been closed after people complained their their pets' remains were treated poorly.
Conservation officials closed Domestic Animal Cremation Aug. 3, after an inspection in July.
Adele Yan (left) is comforted by Sandra McLeod after the two discover the body of Yan's dog in a garbage bag on a counter at the pet crematorium and cemetery Thursday evening. (CBC)
Department spokesman Mike Gilbertson said the owner has been ordered to shut down the company's incinerator until the facility is cleaned up — and the department's concerns don't stop there.
"When our environment officers served this order to the operator, they discovered some further information at her residence that prompted them to bring in the public health inspectors," he said.
"Subsequent to that, a medical officer of health order was issued under the Public Health Act dealing specifically with the disposal of animal carcasses at the residence and at the crematoria property."
Two pet owners looking for information on the remains of their animals' bodies visited the facility, which includes the Domestic Animal Cremation and Misty Gardens Pet Cemetery, Thursday evening with CBC News.
They found freezers containing dead animals, barrels of what appeared to be bone and ashes, a huge tub of stinking, rust-coloured liquid, and an open shed full of containers marked "biohazard" and packed full of syringes.
Pet owners devastated
Adele Yan's dog Otis died in February; burial services for him were scheduled and cancelled several times in recent weeks. When Yan last tried to call the company, the owners' phone numbers were out of service.
A large plastic pail of what appeared to be ashes and bone was found on the property of the pet crematorium. (CBC)
When Yan visited the crematorium and pet cemetery with CBC Thursday evening, she found Otis's body lying in a plastic bag on a counter.
"That's my dog!" she wailed, seeing the muzzle and paw of the Labrador retriever poking out of a black garbage bag; the dog's paw was identifiable by blue ink used to take a keepsake paw-print.
"It's horrific, absolutely horrific. I can't imagine people would do this," Yan said.
"It was total disregard for him, but we've got him and that's what's important now."
"I was floored. I couldn't believe it was like that," said Sandra McLeod, who visited the site Thursday to find out what happened to the remains of her dog Kiya, who died in July.
When McLeod first received what were supposed to be her dog's ashes from the crematorium, she was suspicious, so she sent them to a scientist at the University of Manitoba. The ashes were determined to belong to a cat, McLeod said.
Humane society ends contract
The Winnipeg Humane Society ended its long-term contract with Domestic Animal Cremation in July.
Pails marked 'biohazard' and full of syringes were found in an open shed at the facility. (CBC)
"We had problems with their service. They weren't picking up on time, we had trouble getting ashes back. They weren't respectful of the animals when they picked them up and load[ed] them into the truck," said society veterinarian Erica Anseuw.
The society is planning to conduct inspections of the handlers of deceased animals in the future, Anseuw said.
"In light of this, I think we will be, with our new service, periodically investigating to make sure that things aren't deteriorating. We didn't have problems with Domestic a few years ago. It's just been a recent problem. So I think just to prevent it getting to that point, I think we're going to start."
Iain McIver, owner of Precious Pet Cremation in Winnipeg, says there is an element of "buyer beware" to the business and the public should look into a facility before using it.
"Crematoriums, they should be open, there should be nothing hidden," he said.
"If you would like to come out and see how things are run, you should have the opportunity to be able to come out and have a look at it."
Pet cremation is a growing industry, as people begin to desire the same kind of burial options for their pet as they are offered for human family members, McIver said.
Adele Yan kneels near the body of her dog, Otis. She removed his body from Domestic Animal Cremation and Misty Gardens Pet Cemetery with the permission of police. (CBC)
In order for such a business to open, the provincial conservation and labour departments inspect all equipment, he added.
"After that, once a year they come back and inspect and take your stack emissions and everything else and make sure that you're still within regulations," he said.
An official in the conservation department says Domestic Animal Cremation passed its annual inspection in April, but was re-inspected in July after a complaint was filed.
CBC tried to contact the owners of the pet crematorium and cemetery, but they did not respond.
One owner told a Winnipeg newspaper she had been running the business properly.