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Brattleboro Couple Inspired To Open Crematory For Pets

The death of their beloved cat has inspired a Brattleboro couple to open a pet crematory business.

Marilyn George and Steve Hellus were surprised to find that when Moca Chip, a Persian-Himalayan mix, died last fall there were no facilities in the area that allowed pet owners to be with their pets during cremation.

"I was with her when she was euthanized at the veterinarian's clinic and I wanted to be with her when she was cremated, "George said.

As a result, the couple is preparing to open White Rose Pet Memorial Services in West Brattleboro, VT in early November. They will serve Berkshire, Franklin and Hampshire counties, along with southern Vermont and southwestern New Hampshire.

"Anyone who has a pet, especially when you get to stay with them a long time...they become family members. In today's world, with people living in apartments and condominiums, people just don't have the real estate to bury their pets," Hellus said.

George said the business will provide "pet owners an opportunity to share final moments before saying good-bye and to be assured that the pet would be treated professionally." George and Hellus will pick up deceased pets, or owners can drop them off. They will also offer memorial services. "Lighting a candle, saying a prayer and reading other beautiful farewell poems at our memorial service I hope will offer comfort and help to give closure to those pet owners who have lost a special companion, George said. "We have funeral homes for people, why not offer a funeral home atmosphere for pets?"

All kinds of pets will be accepted from hamsters to rottweillers, providing they not weigh more than 450 lbs. Skunks will not be accepted because of the odor, Hellus said.

They will do individual cremations unless the owner wants a group cremation. The process will take about three hours (dependent on size of animal) and cost between $50 and $350, again depending on the size and type of animal. Urns will be available to hold the ashes of the deceased pets.

Brattleboro Town Manager jerome M. Remillard said the plan to open a pet crematory has not generated any controversy in town, unlike similar proposals in Greenfield and Ashfield.

In Ashfield, Bug Hill Road resident David W. Pichette wanted to open a pet crematorium, but the Planning Board rejected his application. He's hired an attorney and filed a lawsuit against the town of Ashfield in Franklin County Superior Court.

Pichette, a carpenter, wanted to operate the business of out his home.

"It was something that was not available in this area, " Pichette said.....I don't understand why it's happened the way it's happened,.

Pichette's neighbor, Francis J. Kearney, also of Bug Hill Road brought to the Greenfield Board of Selectmen a proposal to build a pet crematorium in that town because he didn't want one in his Ashfield neighborhood. Greenfield selectmen voted unanimously last month to have town planners work out a new zoning bylaw outlawing crematoriums anywhere in the community.

Kearney said he is pleased to hear about the Brattleboro's couple's plan.

"It is very good news to me, " said Kearney, a consultant.

In Brattleboro, Town Manager Remillard said, White Rose will be located in a very rural part of town. The location is pretty remote. There won't be any traffic problems or anything like that, said Brattleboro Fire Chief David J. Emery, adding the project makes sense to me."

The couple has obtained all the necessary permits Remillard said. There is a 'reasonable demand" for the services of a pet crematory he said.

Remillard speaks from experience. About 10 years ago he and his wife had their pet dog cremated and still keep the ashes on their mantle.

In Massachusetts crematories for humans cannot be used for pets.

At the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Springfield, Debbie Whitehead, associate director of public relations said there are several options pet owners can take after their pet dies. General disposal -- when the MSPCA takes the body of the pet and disposes of it -- is the most popular, with about 80 percent of pet owners choosing it, she said. Most cannot afford to have their pet buried in a pet cemetery or have them cremated, "Whitehead said.

If a pet owner wants a pet cremated, the MSPCA uses the services of a Manchester, Conn. company called InServe Corp. The cost varies between $190 and $235, depending on the animal's size, and also included a tin, box or urn for the ashes, she said.

It takes about a week for owners to get the ashes back, Whitehead said.

Whitehead said an InServ representative reports that pet cremation is becoming more popular. The interest in keeping a deceased pet's ashes shows how important pets have become to families, she said.

The MSPCA also runs Hillside Acre Animal Cemetery in Methuen. Angel View Pet Cemetery in MIddleboro conducts cremations.

At the Cat Hospital in Northampton, cremation services are also offered through InServ. Private cremation costs about $90, an employee said.

The White Rose project is costing Hellus and George over $100,000. This is not their first business venture. From 1987 to 1994, they owned Southern Vermont Helicopter, Inc. Hellus flies part-time for Dartmouth Hitchcock Air Rescue Team out of Darmouth-Hitchcock Medical Clinic in Lebanon, NH. George is the founder and director of Safe Haven Home. She publishes a home fire protection manual that is sold to real estate/home builders and insurance companies.

Hellus and George are members of the International Association of Pet Cemeteries. According to the association, about 85 percent of its 200 members operate pet crematories. In the United States alone, there are about 800 pet cemeteries and crematories.

The couple attend a seminar sponsored by the international association six months ago where they learned about the cremation industry.

"We are excited...and know that we are adventuring into new territory. Our involvement with IAPC, and attending two conventions has given us the confidence that we are on the cutting edge and will provide a first-class operation to pet owners," George said.

George said she thinks there will be a demand for their service. Hellus and George have three cats and two dogs. George said her pets are her children.

Hellus has been around animals hi entire life from days as 'a little shaver' growing up on a farm.

"The least we can do when hey pass along is to make sure they're taken care of right, "Hellus said.

We are committed to treating all pets with dignity and respect they inherently deserve.

884 South Street • Brattleboro, VT 05301
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