Pet Cremation Terminology

It is also vital that you learn some common terms used and a description of what they can mean.  Click on the terms to find out more about them:

Individual Pet Cremation
Communal Pet Cremation
Which Pet Crematorium should I use?

Individual Pet Cremation

There are various definitions of what “individual” cremation means.  Some of the processes carry a higher risk of not receiving all of your pet’s ashes or receiving the remains of other pets as well/instead of your own, however the most important thing to remember is that the responsibility of carrying out the physical acts of placing your pet into a chamber and recovering their ashes rests on the shoulders of the person operating the crematorium.  The working procedures of the pet crematorium and more importantly the care and diligence of the operator are the key factors in whether the casket or urn you receive back will contain all, some or none of your pet’s ashes.

There are two main industry definitions by different organisations in the UK:

  1. Taken from the APPCC (Association of Private Pet Cemeteries & Crematoria) Code of Practice:

Individual Cremation : Pets are cremated alone within an enclosed chamber and all ash carefully collected before the next cremation commences. Clients are guaranteed that the ashes they receive or are placed into a memorial garden will be all and only those of their pet.”

  1. Taken from the NFPCC (National Federation of Pet Cemeteries & Crematoria) website:

Individual Cremation where pets are cremated in such a manner as to ensure that the ashes are contained securely and remain separate from all other animals, allowing the return of ashes to the owner.

The APPCC definition mirrors that of human crematoria, where it would be unthinkable to place several bodies in the same chamber and cremate them simultaneously and call it “individual”.  The NFPCC definition allows for several pets to be cremated in the same chamber at the same time, which immediately raises the concern that how can it be guaranteed that the ashes will remain “separate from all other animals”?

Personally I have grave reservations about “numbered tray”, “private” or “separatedcremations” as they are known.  In essence it comes down to how high the sides of the tray are and the size of the pet; I believe that the larger the pet the more likely it is that at least some part of it will move off of the tray at some point during the volatilecremation process during which bodies move and roll, limbs unfurl and air and gases are blown around the chamber.

Even if all the remains do stay in the tray and are not mixed with other pets don’t all pet crematoria have a duty of care to accurately describe the services we are providing to the pet owners that are paying for the service?

Another method used for “individual” cremations (but rarely described) is “segregated” cremations.  This is where a larger chamber is split into smaller segments using a line of hearth bricks to “segregate” the pets from one another.  Like the numbered tray cremations it allows for co-mingling of remains during the cremation.

Finally, some crematoria have been known to give back “token ash” from a communalcremation.  This may or may not contain some of your pet’s ashes and is both illegal and fraudulent.  Over the years we have seen ashes from other crematoria that either weigh far too much or far too little to be from the species of pet they are purported to come from (as illustrated in the photographs below).


Communal Pet Cremation

Many people think this term describes a small group of pets that are cremated together and their remains are scattered or buried in a memorial garden.  Sadly, with the exception of one or two pet crematoria in the UK, this is far from the truth.

Most pets sent for “communal cremation” are incinerated en masse with no special handling and their cremated remains are sent to a licensed landfill site afterwards.  Some crematoria claim that they scatter or inter a “token” amount of ashes in their gardens.  This just distracts people from the truth of where all but a minute proportion of the ashes have been sent and is very misleading.

It would therefore be more accurate to describe “communal cremation” as disposal by incineration or hygienic disposal.  Owners that find out their much loved pet’s remains have been sent to the local tip are understandably distraught.  Many vets either do not know or do not describe what this process entails when offering it to a customer and this is wrong.


Which Pet Crematorium should I use?

 That is your decision entirely.  If you see nothing wrong with the freezer – bag – van – clinical waste route then it may just come down to the way the pet crematorium cremates your pet.  Members of the APPCC adhere to a Code of Practice where your pet’s individual cremation will mirror that of a human crematorium.  Some members like Dignity Pet Crematorium only offer individual pet cremations and you will normally find your pet will be collected the same/next day and handled with far more respect and dignity than if you were to use the weekly collection firm that your vet is likely to be contracted to.  Here are the working procedures at Dignity PetCrematorium.  Go to the How to choose a pet crematorium page to read a list of useful questions you can ask.

Essential information on choosing the right Pet Cremation Service:

How to choose a Pet Crematorium
Pet Cremation answers