Bid a proper goodbye: pet hospice founder in Hong Kong shares what you should do when your pet dies

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  • Founder of Hong Kong Pet Memorial explains why you cannot bury your pet in public parks, what the process of cremation is like, and how you can store your animal’s ashes
  • Every week, Talking Points gives you a worksheet to practise your reading comprehension with questions and exercises about the story we’ve written
Sue Ng |
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You can store your pet’s ashes in a columbarium like this one at Hong Kong Pet Memorial. Photo: Facebook / Hong Kong Pet Memorial

Losing your beloved pet is not easy. For many people in Hong Kong, pets are not just their friends, but their family members too.

Young Post spoke to Iris Chan Pik-yan, founder of the Hong Kong Pet Memorial, a pet hospice, to learn about how to bid a proper farewell to your animal pals.

Will I ever stop feeling sad about losing my pet cat?

What should you do when your pet passes away?

If a pet dies at home, Chan suggested that the owner call for professional services as soon as possible, especially if there was a wound on its body. The owner should then put the carcass on a towel or nappy, and set the room temperature to 20 degrees Celsius.

“Generally, we will pick up the body in a few hours once we receive the call,” she said, adding that a dead pet could be kept in a freezer for up to a month if the owner needed time to decide what to do.

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What are your options when a pet dies?

There are two options: send it to the government, and your pet will then end up in a landfill; or opt for cremation services provided by a pet hospice company.

The Hong Kong government requires pet owners to pack carcasses properly in plastic bags, labelled “dead animal”. The bags must be delivered to collection points managed by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department. The remains will later be sent to a landfill.

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“A pet is our friend and family member. People don’t want them to be treated as trash. Pet cremation is a way to honour their death,” Chan said.

The government does not provide pet cremation services. But it can be done through pet funeral service companies. Nearly all pets, from dogs and birds to hamsters, can be cremated.

Can I bury my pet in Hong Kong?

In Hong Kong, people are not allowed to dig a grave and bury dead animals in public places, even parks. This is only allowed on privately owned premises. The maximum penalty for offenders is a fine of HK$25,000 and six-month imprisonment.

What is the process of pet cremation?

According to Chan, the process usually takes less than a week, and is possible to be completed in a day.

It starts with staff from the pet hospice company giving the dead pet a massage and shower. This is to ease its tightened muscles from spasms before the animal’s death.

“This helps them look pretty and be cremated with dignity,” she explained.

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The body is kept in a box and sent to crematoriums. Owners are given 30 minutes to say their goodbyes.

A cremation can take a few hours, depending on the weight and size of the body. For example, a dog or cat weighing under 5kg will require about 1.5 hours to cremate, including ash and bone collection.

Chan said services differed across companies.

“Our package includes a cleaning service , which some companies don’t offer ... We are the first and among the few in Hong Kong to offer a biodegradable urn,” she said.

What can you do with your pet’s ashes?

One option is to put the ashes in an urn and bring it home so the animal’s final resting place can be with its owners. The urn can also be left at a pet hospice’s columbarium.

“Some owners want their pets to be surrounded by other animals, so they will be less lonely,” Chan added.

There are also people who opt to place their pets’ ashes in accessories such as necklaces or bracelets, to keep their memories close.

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The fourth option is to return their pets to nature, by scattering the ashes at sea, or in a garden that belongs to a hospice company.

“But most companies are just renting the place,” Chan warned. “So once they close down, people will not be able to visit their pets.”

Click here to download a printable worksheet with questions and exercises about this story. Answers are on the second page of the document.

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