Pet Aquamation: Offering pet owners an eco-friendly alternative to pet cremation

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (ABC4) — Pets come in all shapes and sizes. From large, conversational huskies that need to make known their opinions to small, attention-seeking cats whose ears are never scratched enough. Each has a family to call their own, and while owning a pet is full of cuddles, kisses, and puddles of slobber; at one point their time comes to an end.

Losing a pet is arguably one of the hardest things someone can go through, deciding on what to do next is even harder.

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Saying goodbye doesn’t have to be a forever thing, in the opinion of one Utah company. Protecting your pets legacy, the grieving process, and helping the environment through the power of water is the mission of Utah Pet Aquamation.

“Pet aquamation is alkaline hydrolysis which is essentially cremation by water,” said Merritt Rinard, owner and founder of Utah Pet Aquamation.

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A process said to mimic nature by using a combination of heat, water, and alkali; aquamation returns your pet to its natural elements.

Animals are placed in an aqumation machine with an alkali element – Rinard uses salts in the form of potassium hydroxide – then a gentle flow of water is introduced through the machine.

<em>When Rinard’s beloved dog, Trapper, passed she was unable to find an aquamation facility to help her preserve his memory. This was the inspiration for bringing pet aquamation to Salt Lake City.</em> <em>(Photo courtesy Merritt Rinard.)</em>
When Rinard’s beloved dog, Trapper, passed she was unable to find an aquamation facility to help her preserve his memory. This was the inspiration for bringing pet aquamation to Salt Lake City. (Photo courtesy Merritt Rinard.)

“It’s the rate of a stream or a creek, and that breaks down the organic tissue. And what we’re left with is the bones, the mineral remains,” explains Rinard. “Those are dried out over the course of a couple of days. And then they’re processed into ash.”

The process, which takes between 20-24 hours, according to Rinard, doesn’t emit greenhouse gasses and is low energy, leaving one tenth of the carbon footprint of a standard flame cremation. Using this process also gives pet owners approximately 20% more of their pets remains. A percentage that can make a big difference with smaller pets.

“We can do any kind of pet,” Rinard said. “Some operators have done snakes and goldfish all the way up to people have aquamated tigers.”

Utah Pet Aquamation officially opened its doors in July of this year, but the journey to that point started years before.

“Almost two and a half years ago, my dog Trapper, who was six years old at the time, was diagnosed with stage four kidney disease,” Rinard remembered.

She says the reality of Trapper’s diagnosis hit her hard and in preparation started looking for a way to preserve his memory

“I knew about aquamation from a friend in Austin, and I started looking through the area to find an aquamation facility. And I quickly realized that nobody was offering this in the Salt Lake area.”

From there, inspiration struck. She decided if she couldn’t do this for Trapper, she would make sure others after him had the chance.

“I kind of had some soul searching, honestly, to decide if this was something that I emotionally could handle. And I feel like it’s a really important option. So, I decided to take this leap of faith and open the facility.”

Since starting her journey, Rinard has helped owners find a new way to honor their pets, including one woman who was grieving the loss of her beloved dog, Curry.

<em>When sweet Curry passed his owners chose pet aquamation to help in their healing journey.</em> <em>(Photo courtesy of Natasha Bottari.)</em>
When sweet Curry passed his owners chose pet aquamation to help in their healing journey. (Photo courtesy of Natasha Bottari.)

This summer, we were in the process of moving up here to Utah, and just very busy with everything that’s ensued with that, and so I probably missed a lot of the signs which would have told me to get him to a vet much quicker,” said Natasha Bottari whose German Shepard became ill. “I got him into a doctor, and he was in massive kidney failure.”

Because of Curry’s quick passing, Bottari says she hadn’t even considered what steps to take next and wasn’t sure what to do. Bottari’s vet suggested aquamation.

“When we put him to sleep, the vet came to our house, and I just was completely undecided on what I wanted to do. I knew I didn’t want to do cremation. I just couldn’t imagine that,” she said. “I had never heard of aquamation, knew nothing about it. So I got online and started kind of researching it, Googling, and this was probably the most comforting route to me.”

As a pet parent herself, Rinard says she understands the impossible but inevitable battle many are faced with, and while she can’t take the pain away, she says she’s waiting with arms open to help make the grieving process a little less harsh.

“You know, I’ve been there personally, and I know what it feels like to lose a pet. So, you know, I want people to feel comfortable coming to me and handing over their pet,” Rinard relates. “And, you know, I’ll treat them like it’s one of my own.”

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