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Local pet crematoria face an uphill battle

Dec 20,2018
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A funeral for Hani, an elderly couple’s beloved pet, takes place at pet funeral home Pet Land on Dec. 13. The funeral followed all the required Buddhist funeral rituals, and Hani was eventually cremated. [PET LAND]
The elderly couple was in tears as they watched their dog, Hani, who was dressed in hemp and lay peacefully in front of them. Hani’s Buddhist funeral at Pet Land, a pet funeral home in Seongbuk District, central Seoul, took over an hour.

The couple said the funeral was the least they could do for their beloved pet.

“There aren’t many people who use the pet cremation service,” said Park Yeong-ok, the owner of Pet Land. “There are a lot of crematorium operators that are deciding to open funeral homes for pets, yet the majority of them who do go in business suffer from financial difficulties.”

Park was firm that the pet funeral home business is not a new one.

Park has been working in the funeral pet business ever since September 1999. He said that “many of the [pet crematoria] only use one of the two machines. There are many business that have shut their doors after attempting [to boost] business by changing their work hours to around the clock.”

Park concluded by saying that, “[pet owners] had to change the way they view funeral pet homes in order for the business to work.”

According to a survey conducted by the Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency of 1,407 respondents, only 59.9 percent (853) said that they were going to look into cremating their pets. About 24 percent (338) replied that they were going to bury them in the mountains, while 12.9 percent (182) said that they were going to allow animal hospitals to cremate them and 1.7 percent (24) said that they were going to throw them away in plastic waste bags. Burying animals in nature is illegal, but nearly one four respondents said that it was the method they would choose.

“Many owners feel a financial burden after they receive funeral consultation, which is why they decide to bury them in the mountains,” said Park.

The funeral costs for a dog that weighs less than five kilograms (11 pounds) starts at 200,000 won ($176). The costs cover the casket the pet is put into while they are cremated as well as the cremation itself. If a pet weighs over five kilograms, an additional 10,000 won is added for every extra kilogram. If the owners opt to put the ashes in a memorial hall or decide to dress their pet for an open casket, the funeral cost can spiral up to one million won. People who have the money do use pet funeral services, but the majority of pet owners decide not to because of the price.

“A public funeral hall should be made to make sure that pet owners no longer resort to burying their pets in an illegal manner,” said Park. “The [public funeral homes] should make sure that owners are able to opt for funeral services that are at least 20,000 won to 30,000 won cheaper than private services.”

“Illegal animal funeral homes are [also] a reason why animal funeral homes are viewed in such a negative light,” said Kim Jeong-suk, the owner of an animal funeral home located in Gumi, North Gyeongsang. “These illegal facilities are not clean, and they overcharge for the funeral services they offer. Through a consistent crackdown on these facilities conducted by responsible governmental agencies, positive perception about pet funerals will spread. ”

BY KIM JUNG-SEOK, BAEK KYUNG-SEO [jeong.juwon@joongang.co.kr]