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Dear Dr. Fox:

Our 14-year-old Newfoundland dog, Candy, died of bloat in 2001, and we had her cremated about a week later. The company that prepared the cremation returned Candy's ashes in an urn that I keep on my bedside nightstand.

But I don't take much comfort in having Candy's ashes because I have no confidence that they are her remains. If we can't be certain that human ashes are authentic, how can we be certain about the ashes of a pet?

Do you have confidence that pet cremation services return the ashes of our pet, rather than the combined ashes of many cremated pets?


Hendersonville, N.C.

DF: The government does not regulate the pet cremation industry, so you can never be certain that only your animal's ashes were returned to you. Even if they were, as we know from the regulatory chaos of the human- and pet-food industries, the only real assurance is based on trust. You or a friend might try to witness and determine whether pets are cremated individually.

Individual cremation might cost more because the oven has to be cleaned and put through an entire cycle for just one animal, rather than several.

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