Advice on adding pet loss services to your existing business model from an expert consultant.

I called her my fur-kid. And, everyone around me knew that’s how I felt too. Mico was treated just like a family member, along with all of the benefits of being an “only child.” Clothes. Toys. Treats fit for a queen. Special nanny care. She was very, very  loved and there was no question how much joy she added to my life.

The last few months of her life were traumatic. The lung cancer ravaged her body as I tried everything I could to “fix her.” I did what any parent would do, what anyone who loves someone would do, I did everything I could to try and get her back to her old normal.

But, it wasn’t meant to be. On April 21, 2003, she took her final breath on the operating table under the care of those that were trying to heal her. Her life changed me. And, her death eventually would too.

After her death, the veterinarian presented two options. Her little precious body would be put in a bag, placed in a freezer, their route service would be around next week to take her three hours out of town for cremation, and she’d be back to me in a month. Or, we could take her body home with us.

Of course we took her home with us. My husband made some calls on his own and found a human funeral home offering pet cremation. While better than the first alternative by a long shot, their services were incredibly lacking compared to what I, a loving pet parent, wanted to do in order to honor what Mico’s life meant to me, my family and friends.

Mico’s death profoundly changed me. I knew that there were other pet parents out there just like me who wanted to give their beloved pets all they could, and all they deserved, at their time of death. 

From the creation of the first stand-alone pet funeral home in the country to the pet death care consulting I do now, my instincts regarding what pet parents desire when their pets die have proven time and time again to be on point. And, I can tell you, it looks JUST LIKE what they want for any loved one—and sometimes even more.

So, the major reason for YOU to consider offering pet death care services? Because you can. You are a death care specialist and that’s what pet parents like me want when our  beloved family member dies. Even if that family member has fur.

Why pet death care services?
Let’s explore the addition of pet loss services to your existing business model from a logical perspective. In a recent article titled 15 Surefire Ways to Increase your Revenue by Michael Lewis of Money Crashers, the top two ways are:
• Add complementary service to existing products
• Extend the geographic market area

When you consider the first reason, think about it: there is a natural death care adjacency to your current value offerings—that’s helping pet parents with another very meaningful death in their lives.

To the extent you offer pet death care services, your market footprint expands in two ways. First, if you offer this service and your competitors don’t, you increase share and brand within your current trade area’s geography. Second, you expand your market to include to new areas that may not normally come to you for human death care service, but lacking other options, will come to you for pet death care.

Pet industry experts also contend that pet services are not just recession proof, but recession resistant. People love their pets and show that love by taking care of them. In life,  it’s doggie spas, bakeries, and daycare services. In death, it’s respectful treatment and those same rituals that honor their amazing life spent together.

Still trying to understand why this fascination with pets exists? In my continued research in the pet industry, Alissa Wolf eloquently positions this answer. Baby boomers are empty nesting and the pets are becoming the new children. This cohort likes to take care of themselves and by spoiling the pets and treating them like members of the family allows them to fulfill this trait of a boomer. Speaking of surrogate kids, more socially accepted with the millennials is the putting off of marriage and having human kids so they, too, are using the pets to fill that role.

Word-for-word, Alissa goes on to state “then there are those people who have become frankly disillusioned with their fellow humans, due to the increased strife in the world. They will readily attest that pets are the only living beings that are capable of providing unconditional love and loyalty. For these and a host of other reasons, many people now regard their pets as valued family members, and (listen up… here it comes!!!!) will spend money on them accordingly.”

There you have it. Perfectly said.

The answer for you to grow your business, if done properly, is staring you right in the face, just like my lovable and goofy Flat Coat Retriever waiting for dinner. Think about it… in 2013, the percentage of pet ownership topped out at 68%. Of that, 83% of people will refer to themselves as mommy and daddy when speaking to thir pets. And not quietly! One can’t watch a commercial on TV or see a story on loved pets where the terminology pet parents isn’t used. An incredible self-proclaimed affinity group, passionate and determined to make sure that pets are given proper treatment and care, in life and in death. Why would you not want to have a message that can appeal immediately to over 50% of your trade market? And, remember what Michael Lewis with Money Crashers advised— find a value offering addition that will increase your geographic market!

Why you SHOULD NOT offer pet loss services
Here it is—the main reason why you SHOULD NOT offer pet loss services is—if you don’t “get it,” don’t do it. And, by “get it” I mean:
• The human-animal bond
• People calling their pet “their child”
• The relationship that people have with their pets
• The things that people do for their pets: doggie spas, high-end bakeries, little doggies dressed in cute clothes, Halloween costumes, etc.
• The grief that’s felt when a pet dies
• People desiring to have a funeral for a pet
• People wanting pet memorialization products

Speaking frankly and candidly, you cannot fake understanding it either. I, as a pet parent, will feel that you don’t get it and that will most certainly have a negative effect on the intent of your business. I will then perceive your program as one more way to make money versus being there to be of service to me.

Oh, and one more thing…
There are already businesses out there providing “cremation services” to veterinarians and local families. Don’t be that business. That’s very yesterday. We as pet parents don’t need another one of those businesses. That’s not what I want you to do. Think in a tomorrow fashion, give me a value offering and place where I can come for visitations. Where I can come to look at memorialization options (because I want those). A place where I know I’m safe to talk about my grief and the life I shared with my fur-love. We don’t need another “machine-oriented” service.

I want a place that will give me an experience. A place where I’m safe because when it comes to the death of a pet, for some reason, society chooses to have an opinion. An opinion about what we should do, what we shouldn’t do, what’s acceptable without being eccentric, what’s acceptable without being crazy— and the list goes on.
Be that place that I will tell everyone about. A safe place that lets me do what I need to do when my furry family member dies. Create that place for me.

Why? Because you can. And because pet parents need and want you to do it.


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