The Final Paws: Part I

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Most pet owners care for their pets like a member of their family. They do their homework before entrusting their beloved companions to the care of a vet, but what happens to a pet after it has passed away can be just as important. When a pet owner makes the decision to cremate a pet that has passed away, emotions can sometimes cloud their judgment. A local pet owner shares her story with News 25 of how she believes she was misled in the details of the pet cremation process.

For Shannon Turner, losing her Jack Russell Terrier, Charlotte, was like losing a family member. After using Saucier Veterinarian Hospital for most of Charlotte’s life, the Turners brought Charlotte to the vet knowing they wanted to have her body cremated. Turner says, "We took her there. It was about 8:30, 9:00 in the morning. We dropped her off. They told us that they would handle everything. The lady receptionist that took her from us said that they would handle everything, that everything would be taken care of."

But Turner says everything was not taken care of. Saucier Veterinarian Hospital is one of hundreds of local vets that contracts out to a Florida-based company, Greenbrier, to cremate pets. Turner and her husband say they were not told their pet would be sent out of state and would have never agreed to the cremation if they knew. Turner also says, "Wednesday, I called to find out when we’d be able to pick Charlotte up. They informed us that she was in Florida then and I asked them, ‘Why was she taken out of state to be cremated when there are facilities on the Coast that they could have taken our animal to?’"

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Saucier Veterinarian told News 25 they do inform pet owners about cremation options, including the company in Florida they use. Dr. James Moss Askew Jr. of Saucier Veterinarian Hospital says, "We do tell them that there are local companies and we give them a chance to shop around. In fact, we’ll hand them a book with the different options in it and then they get to make the choice. We don’t make it for them."

Turner says they were not given any options in the cremation process. Once the couple learned of the out of state company, Turner was able to get in touch with Greenbrier and have the body returned, but Turner says that’s where the experience went from bad to worse. She says, "When we arrived at the veterinarian, we were sitting there waiting for the truck to pull up. The truck was unrefrigerated truck. She was defrosted when the man took out her out of the back of the truck. The bag was torn, she smelt, she was limp, the only part of her that was actually even cold was the bottom of the bag because she was laid on top of other animals that were on top of the truck."

Greenbrier has not responded to repeated attempts for comment about their trucks, but Saucier Veterinarian Hospital believes the trucks are appropriately refrigerated. Dr. Askew also says, "I do know their truck is refrigerated. I do know that there has been a lot of drama surrounding the cremains, or almost cremains that they’ve had in the past."

Saucier veterinarians tell News 25 they use Greenbrier with their own pets and before any pet leaves with Greenbrier, Saucier Veterinarian Hospital freezes the body. Dr. Ann Ladner of Saucier Veterinarian Hospital says, "Until they leave our building, we keep them frozen just because again of the possibility of decomposing."

Several truck drivers tell News 25 from looking at the picture of a Green Brier truck, they believe there is no refrigeration unit attached and say Greenbrier may be violating Health Department regulations. For the Turners, they were refunded their money and were able to take Charlotte to another crematorium facility.