Pet cremation goes mobile

November 12th, 2009 by Philip Brasor & Masako Tsubuku

Hannah then and now

Hannah then and now

People with pets dispose of their deceased animals’ remains in different ways, but if they live in the city the options are obviously more limited. You can’t just go in the woods and bury Pochi or Tama and set up a little memorial. Moreover, there are laws about disposing of dead animals.

About a year ago our cat died. We’d lost two cats previously. With the first one, we called a local temple, which immediately sent someone over to take the body away. Several days later they called and we went to the temple where they said a little prayer and gave us the cremated remains in an urn, which we took home, even though the temple has a reliquary for pet remains. For the second cat we called a pet cremation service directly.

Most such services are associated with temples so as to make their work seem less commercial, but even when you take your pet’s body to a temple they send it out to a commercial cremation facility anyway. These services will pick up the body at your home and later bring back the ashes; or, more precisely, the bones, since cremation in Japan—even for humans—doesn’t usually get as far as ashes, which entails another, different cremation process.

For Hannah, however, we tried something else, having read that most pet disposal services cremate a number of animals at the same time in order to cut down on costs. Consequently, the remains you receive later may not be those of your pet. The only way to know for sure is to witness your pet being cremated, so we called PET 594 CAR.

PET 594 CAR is a mobile cremation facility that comes to your house or apartment building and cremates your pet right there. The number 594 when read in Japanese is prounced “gokuyo,” which means “memorial service.” PET 594 CAR is a franchise business, which means independent operators buy their own trucks and outfit them with miniature crematoriums. When you call the toll free number, the operator locates the franchise closest to your residence.

In our case, the franchisee called us back and asked for an appropriate place to meet. We weren’t too sure what he meant, but it soon became clear. Most people do not want funeral homes, cemeteries or crematoriums located in their neighborhoods, so the franchisee wanted to meet us somewhere fairly quiet. After noting our address he suggested a road underneath the elevated highway across the Sumida River.

We wrapped our cat in a cloth, placed her in a backpack and rode our bicycles to the rendezvous, which was next to a vacant lot and out of sight of any residential housing. The franchisee was very considerate and allowed us as much time as we wanted before placing Hannah in the oven. He seemed to be following a manual. The entire process would take two hours, so we returned home and waited. He called a few hours later and delivered Hannah’s remains in an urn.

Fees start at ¥15,000 for an animal less than one kilogram. The price depends on the weight. For any animal heavier than 25 kg, a regular crematorium has to be used. A truck would be too small. The maximum weight is 60 kg, which costs ¥58,000.

PET 594 CAR also has connections to pet cemeteries, which are becoming more popular in Japan. PET 594 CAR isn’t the only mobile pet crematorium service. It’s a growth business since not only do more and more Japanese people consider their pets to be members of their families, but so far there aren’t many regulations regarding trucks with crematoriums. But if anyone complains, you can be sure there will be.

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