Where will you go when the time comes to say good-bye to your beloved pet? Most people will go to their trusted Pet Care Provider who will hopefully usher them through this crossroads of emotion and decision making with love, support and dignity.Surprisingly, this is not often the case. Recently when I picked up my dogs at the grooming salon, the dear lady shared with me that when she lost her most recent dog, her husband handled all of the decision making as she was just too emotional. After spending nearly $350.00, it turned out that he had mistakenly ordered a mass cremation and therefore this couple never did receive the ashes of their beloved pet. He was told by his Pet Care Provider “don’t worry, we will take care of everything; this is the option most people choose…” He had assumed, incorrectly, that he would be receiving his pets ashes in return.While pet cemeteries have been available in many communities, burial within a pet cemetery can be a very expensive option. Many may still choose to bury their pet in their back forty but most communities now have very strict health department zoning restrictions on pet burial. Today families have become more mobile and may desire the ability to take their family pet’s remains with them when they re-locate or they may feel more comfortable with a visible, tangible memorial for their beloved pet. All are reasons that more and more pet owners are choosing cremation and as many as 70 percent of those owners are choosing to receive their pets ashes after the cremation. Just 10 years ago only 25 percent chose this option to receive the ashes back after cremation.Knowing that cremation is your choice is not the last step in this decision. Many pet owners do not realize, as my poor dog groomer did not, that there are many options for the pet cremation and deconstructing these options and the variety of terms in use for these options is the most important aspect of the pet cremation choice. Pet cremation usually falls within three main categories; mass cremation, individual cremation and private cremation.Mass or Communal Cremation – As the name implies this is the cremation of many animals at one time, within a single cremation session. Pet cremators (the actual pet cremation equipment) can be very large with a capacity of several hundred to thousands of pounds of weight. The animals included in a mass cremation may come from a variety of clinics, animal shelters, etc and when the cremation session is completed the ashes are gathered and taken away to be disposed of by the crematory company, generally in their private landfill. This option should be the least expensive option for the pet owner and is a sanitary and decent way to dispose of the pet if retaining the ashes is not desired.Individual Cremation – The individual cremation is a source of much confusion for pet owners and often uninformed Pet Care Provider staff. Individual cremation simply means that the ashes that are returned to the pet owner are intended to be only the ashes of their beloved pet. Generally with an individual pet cremation, the animal is tagged with a metal tag and placed within their own individual metal tray within the cremator. Depending upon the volume of the particular cremator there can be many animals within one session, however the animals are identified and separated. When the session is complete, the ashes within each individual tray are processed, bagged, and readied to be shipped back to the Pet Care Provider or individual pet owner depending on the circumstance of its arrival to the crematory. Many pet owners believe that an individual cremation means that their pet was cremated in a single session by itself and then given back to them as a guarantee that these ashes are their pets ashes alone. The only way to make absolutely sure that is the case is with the following option and that is the Private or Witnessed Private Cremation.Private Cremation and Witnessed Private Cremation – A private cremation provides the option for the pet to be cremated entirely alone within the cremation chamber or cremator ensuring that there are no other ashes mixed in with the singular pets ashes. Often there will be a tag with identifying numbers that will be placed on the pet and will go through the crematory process with him and returned with the obvious characteristics of the crematory process on the tag as an extra assurance. Many times the crematorium facilities will allow for a special blanket or toy to accompany the pet and some crematoriums now have waiting room facilities or facilities that allow for a witnessed private cremation.Many of these Pet Funeral Homes even offer wonderful viewing areas and are set up to conduct private memorial services as well. Private cremations are becoming more popular as pet funeral homes are beginning to pop up across our landscape. Pet funeral homes often can arrange for pick up of the pet at the private home or Veterinarian facility as well. While all Pet Funeral Homes will make arrangements with the individual pet owner, sixty five percent of private cremations are from Veterinary affiliates so it is important to discuss with your Veterinarian what crematory company he has an affiliation with and/or does he have a pet funeral home that he would recommend if what you require is the absolute assurance that a Private Cremation will take place.Pet Cremation costs vary greatly and are largely dependent upon the above choices and whether the arrangements are scheduled through an intermediate source such as the Pet Care Provider. Mass or Communal Cremation generally costs from $75.00 – $125.00, Individual Cremation can cost $100.00 – $200.00 and Private and Witnessed Private Cremations can cost as high as $500.00 or more depending upon whether the family chooses private pick up, private viewing and/or a memorial service. Many Pet Funeral Homes are offering preplanning and prepayment options to the pet community just as are offered in the human funeral business.While it is a difficult subject to contemplate for every pet owner, it is best to be prepared with as much knowledge as possible before the time comes. Take the time to discuss your crematory options with your Pet Care Provider or with your local pet funeral home or crematory, make sure that you are clear on what it is they provide, have them describe their processes in detail and make sure that those services meet your expectations.