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‘Aquamation’: New technology provides pet owners alternative to cremation

Updated: Jul 11, 2022

With new technology, pet owners are turning to water — instead of fire — to lay their pets to rest.

By: Michelle Ross, Nexstar Media Wire

Posted: Jan 8, 2022 / 03:02 PM EST

Updated: Jan 8, 2022 / 03:02 PM EST

OCEANSIDE, N.Y. (WPIX) – Whether it’s through burial or cremation, when it comes to the end of your pet’s life, there are just a handful of options to say goodbye. But with new technology, pet owners are turning to water — instead of fire — to lay their pets to rest.

Meghan McFadden lost her dog, Gizmo, in a fire in her apartment in Queens, New York, on Monday.

“I’ve had him for 13 years,” McFadden said. “It’s the only thing I’ve known. He’s been through everything with me, so not having him here is just terrible.”

Laying him to rest is making the grieving period just a touch easier knowing he won’t be cremated, but rather put to rest in a more environmentally friendly, and perhaps gentler way.

“It was just a really nice experience to have to go through when you’re dealing with something like that,” McFadden said.

The process is called aquamation, and is done at Compassionate Care Pet Aquamation in Oceanside, New York. Director Alan Hillsberg said it mimics exactly what happens in nature when the pet is laid to rest naturally in the soil. But depending on the moisture of the soil and temperature of the air, this could take anywhere from three months to five years for the animal’s body to naturally dissolve.

“Our process mimics what happens in nature but only takes 20 hours to complete,” Hillsberg said.

At Compassionate Care, the animal is put inside a steel basket and then lifted by a crane, which gently places it into a machine where there’s a mixture of 95% water and 5% alkali.

It gets hot — never boiling, though — at 204 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to flame-based cremation, which gets up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

“No smoke stacks, no smoke,” Hillsberg added. “It is completely environmentally friendly. There are no emissions into the atmosphere. There’s no spewing of carbon dioxide into the air.”

What’s left are the bones, which get processed into a powder and put in an urn for the pet owner.

Gizmo is the second pet McFadden has aquamated in eight months, but seeing how natural the process is makes the heartache a little lighter.

“Once I found out Gizzy died and I needed somewhere to put him, I wasn’t calling anyone else,” McFadden said.

As aquamation is becoming more popular for animals, it’s not yet legal for humans in New York State, though there is legislation hoping to change that.

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