This story was updated April 5.
The Animal Welfare League in Port Charlotte has started a cremation service for pet owners who have suffered the loss of their four-footed companions.
Cherie George, president of the AWL, said it is offering its Pay It Forward Pet Crematory service through local veterinarians. If Pay It Forward is used, a portion of the fee would “save the life of a homeless animal,” she said.
The service is available to residents of Charlotte, Sarasota and DeSoto counties; soon it will come to Lee County, George added.
The idea came from the former AWL president. The pandemic hit the AWL hard, as it depends on donations. Funding for the shelter dramatically decreased over the past year. George said she had to find new ways to bring in money to care for AWL’s many adoptable dogs and cats.
The AWL needed about $250,000 to get the cremation service up and running. Fundraisers and a large bequest raised the money, she said.
A vehicle and cremation equipment were purchased, and a site was leased where the cremations would be performed.
Participating veterinarians were given AWL decorative boxes for the cremains and other items for those choosing to go through the AWL.
The animal would be picked up from the vet’s office and the cremains returned back to the office. The pet owner would not be involved, said George.
If the owner does not have a veterinarian, Pay It Forward would pick up the remains. It offers three types of cremations: private — the animal is cremated alone; individual — several animals are cremated at once with partitions between them; and communal — multiple animals are cremated at the same time.
Ashes are returned to the vets who would give them to pet owners for private and individual cremations, but not for communal ones, George said. Also, the pet’s bereaved owner can be present at the cremation, if requested.
She said, “Losing a loved one is very, very sad,” but the loss can make one feel “purposeful” by having Pay It Forward handle arrangements. That way, the money goes toward the nonprofit AWL and in turn helps its homeless animals to live and hopefully, get adopted.
If a pet-owner has a suffering animal and the AWL can verify the animal is truly in distress or pain, etc., it would perform euthanasia at the shelter only at the owner's request; this is a separate entity from the AWL, emphasized Sherri Dennis, co-director of the AWL.
As of Wednesday there were 69 cats, 59 dogs, one bunny, one rat, and 12 hamsters at AWL. Also, 66 animals are in foster care.
For information go to: www.payitforwardpetcrematory.com/services/veterinary-clinic.