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.
The process is called aquamation, and it can be done at places like Compassionate Care Pet Aquamation in Oceanside, New York. Director Alan Hillsberg said aquamation mimics exactly what happens in nature when the pet is laid to rest naturally in the soil.
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. According to aquamationinfo.com, this combination of gentle water flow, temperature, and alkalinity accelerate the breakdown of organic materials.
On Monday, Meghan McFadden lost her dog, Gizmo, in a fire in her apartment in Queens, New York.
“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.”
Gizmo is the second pet McFadden has aquamated in eight months, but seeing how natural the process 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. “It was just a really nice experience to have to go through when you’re dealing with something like that.”
Depending on the soil’s moisture and the air’s temperature, it could take months or even years for an animal’s body to naturally dissolve when buried.
The aquamation process, on the other hand, “mimics what happens in nature but only takes 20 hours to complete,” Hillsberg said.
Temperatures get hot for aquamation — never boiling, though — at 204 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to flame-based cremation, which gets up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
“No smokestacks, 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.”
At the end, the bones are left, which get processed into a powder and put in an urn for the pet owner.
Even as aquamation is becoming more popular for animals, it’s not yet legal for humans in New York State, though there is legislation aimed at changing that.