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A Gentler Way to Say Goodbye?

For pet owners grieving the loss of their animal companion, Jerry Shevick has a new option for what to do with the remains. As an alternative to traditional cremation, Shevick offers aquamation – dissolving the soft tissues using an alkaline water solution. The bones left behind are ground into an ash similar to beach sand and given to the pet owner. “This is an acceleration of what nature would do,” said Shevick, who started Peaceful Pets Aquamation Inc. in Newbury Park more than a year ago after a long career in the entertainment industry. Shevick said his motivation was two-fold: to provide a more environmentally sensitive method of disposing of pet remains; and redefining an “archaic” segment of the pet care industry. “The aftercare (for dead pets) is the same now as it was 100 years ago,” said Shevick, who self-funded the startup at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars. The process, formally called alkaline hydrolysis, is itself more than 100 years old, though the first commercial equipment appeared only in the 1990s. Medical schools have adopted the process to dispose of donated bodies. Peaceful Pets had to get a special-use permit from Thousand Oaks and work with water treatment authorities and the fire department on disposal of the remaining watery effluent, which can be flushed into the sewage system. “Alkaline hydrolysis is just a light industrial practice like many, many others,” Shevick said. Peaceful Pets uses a $90,000 machine from BioResponse Solutions, in Danville, Ind. that holds an animal of up to 400 pounds and circulates water heated to 180 degrees to dissolve the soft tissues. In addition to familiar household pets, the company has performed aquamations on a black panther, a bobcat, lizards, chickens and pigs. Peaceful Pets charges from $100 to $350, depending on the weight of the animal. By comparison, cremation ranges in cost from $75 to several hundred dollars depending on the animal’s size, with an additional cost for return of the ashes. Shevick declined to reveal his revenue so far. Peaceful Pets works predominantly with veterinarians and set a policy of matching or beating animal-hospital cremation costs. The five-year business plan is to open franchises around the country, which Shevick acknowledged will not happen unless the public is better informed about the process. “You need critical mass in the education and have to spend time and money to get the information out,” he added. As for now, the service the company offers is in limited use and far from the mainstream, said Ron Kelpe, president of California Veterinary Medical Association. “On the surface, I don’t see any downsides and it may be a trend that will catch on in the future,” he said. – Mark R. Madler

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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