Bischoff’s Pet Preservation FAQs

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How do I prepare to preserve my pet?
After your pet passes away, make sure the body is dry, immediately place it into a sealed plastic bag and then into a standard freezer. If in their care, veterinarians and kennel or operators are usually able to do this for you. Any heavy soiling or debris should be removed, but no washing, or other preparation is necessary.

How do I get my pet to you?

We offer free pick up either from the vet’s office or your home (frozen only). Free pick up within 30 miles from our location in North Hollywood CA.

What is freeze drying?

Freeze-drying is a method of preservation which eliminates the decaying process inherent in the living tissues of plants and animals. Through a combination of very low temperature and vacuum application, all moisture is removed, leaving the tissues otherwise unaltered. Upon completion of the process, the pet is returned to room temperature, and remains indefinitely in the same condition thereafter, subject to the same care and treatment as other valued possessions.

What are my payment options?

75%  is due before the preservation process begins, we offer 12 month term options as well.

How long does the process take?

It takes approximately 6 to 12 months, time frame varies depending on pet size, density and desired pose. Special circumstances, like custom ordering of eyes, may affect turn around time.

What does pose mean?

Pose is simply the way your pet is going to look, or what they are going to be doing. The basic poses are lying down or sleeping. Sitting up may be possible for small pets. With freeze drying, we are working against gravity and there are some poses that cannot be achieved. Your pet’s eyes can be opened or closed. We recommend that you have photos/reference images and a pose in mind at the time of receiving your pet.

My pet has been in the freezer for months. Will freeze drying still be an option?

Yes. Freezer burn can set in within months, but early freezer burn is typically not severe. We will inspect your pet and assess his or her condition and determine if full preservation is an option.

I can’t afford preservation, do I have other options?

If full preservation is not a viable option for you, we offer other services including, professional portraits, skeletal/bone articulation, heart, tail, paw  preservation and Aquamation/Crematory services.

My pet lost a lot of weight before passing. Is it possible to make him/her look healthy again?

There is no magic fix to this issue. Your pet will look the way they looked around the time of their passing. We will do our best when grooming/preparing and can sometimes add a little weight to the body, usually they actually look better.

My pet was shaved for IVs or other medical procedures. What can we do about that?

This is very common. We do our best to adjust the pose to hide these areas. Sometimes it cannot be hidden if the whole body or large portions have been shaved.

Will I be able to touch my pet after she/he has been freeze dried? Can I brush her fur?

Yes. You may softly pet and brush the hair without any issue. We groom your pet before and after the freeze drying process.

How long will my freeze dried pet last?

Like any fine fur or mount, your pet will last a lifetime as long as you care for it properly. We will provide care instructions and helpful tips for maximizing your pet’s longevity.

What are some things that should be avoided?

Direct sunlight can fade colors after time. Humidity is a huge threat to anything freeze dried. Do not get your pet wet or bring them outside. Keep away from open flames. Remember that your pet is still flesh and bone, so avoid any situation where insects would be attracted to your pet.

Alkaline Hydolisis FAQ’s

What is alkaline hydrolysis?

 Aquamation/Alkaline hydrolysis (AH) is an environmentally friendly alternative to flame cremation and burial. AH is often referred to in practice as Aquamation.

How does it work?

This process is essentially an accelerated version of what takes place during natural decomposition. Each pet is respectfully placed in its own individual compartment. A combination of gentle water flow, temperature, and alkalinity are used to accelerate the natural of tissue hydrolysis. All organic material is reduced to its original building blocks. At the end of the process, there is no DNA or RNA remaining. The sterile processed water is released for recycling and only the inorganic bone minerals remain. Each individual pet’s remains are rinsed, dried, and processed into powder for return to the family in an urn.

Is there an ash to return to the family as there is with flame cremation?

Yes. A powdered ash is returned in the same manner as remains from flame cremation. This ash is pure calcium phosphate from the mineral ash of the bone. As it is without the carbon discoloration that comes from burning, it is typically lighter in color. Alkaline hydrolysis will yield 20% more final ash remains on average than flame cremation.

Why is this considered an environmentally friendly choice?

With aquamation there are no direct emissions or harmful greenhouse gases or mercury to the atmosphere. This process does not burn any fossil fuels. It is very energy efficient, greater than 90% energy savings compare to flame based cremation, with 1/10th of the carbon footprint.

Can the body be embalmed?

Yes, this is a choice that is in the hands of the individual or family. All embalming fluids are completely broken down in the process.

Is a casket required for this process?

No. Unlike flame cremation, a box or casket is not used in the process. These materials will not break down in the Aquamation process, nor will clothing unless it is protein-based (silk, wool, or leather). In states that require an alternative container, the body will be placed in a respectful bio- bag, made of a special material that safely biodegrades in the process. There are also beautiful silk and or wool shrouds the family can choose for this process that are similar in appearance to those used for natural burial.

Are the remains safe to handle?

Yes, the ash remains are 100% safe to handle, pathogen and disease free. Alkaline hydrolysis is a proven sterilization process.

Why do you receive more ashes than with flame cremation?

The flame cremation process occurs at 1600-1800°F with the remains in contact with direct flame. Some of the inorganic mineral remains are lost to the air through the stack. The Aquamation process occurs at 200-300°F without any fire at all, and the water circulation in the system is a similar flow to that of a creek or stream. It is very gentle to the final mineral remains, which allows more to be present at the end of the process.

Will I need a larger urn?

Yes, sometimes a larger urn is needed due to the increased volume of ashes, but this varies for each individual case. Because the ashes are a fine powder versus the larger fragments from flame cremation, the ashes do fit more efficiently into the urns.

Are the ashes toxic to the environment or plants?

Absolutely not. As with anything, toxicity of a substance is a function of concentration. Miracle grow is a fertilizer, but if over-applied, it can kill a plant. A daily multivitamin is not toxic when taken as directed, but it would be toxic (and likely deadly) if the whole bottle were to be taken. When spreading or scattering ashes, we need to pay mind to where we are scattering them. A cremation garden that allows the scattering of ashes from hundreds of individuals can be a tough environment for growing plants. In extreme cases, poor practices could result in contamination of the water table. For families wanting to use the ashes from Aquamation or flame cremation as part of a potting soil, allowing their loved one to live on through the plant, the ashes are certainly not toxic if the soil is properly prepared. Significantly diluting the calcium phosphate ashes with potting soil and a pH balancer to match your region and specific plant type makes the ashes beneficial to the plant instead of potentially toxic. Your Aquamation provider can provide you with guidance for creating your living memorial.

How much does Aquamation cost?

The cost of services and what is included in the price varies greatly by size and weight. Aquamation is comparable in price to flame cremation. It is significantly less costly than burial.

Why do families choose this option?

Families have expressed:

  • They are grateful to have a choice.
  • They prefer a process that does not use fire or flame.
  • They prefer receiving 20-30% more of their loved ones’ ashes returned to the family.
  • They believe this to be a more gentle option than flame-based cremation.
  • They value the decreased environmental impact of the process
Do pacemakers need to be removed from the body?

No. This is one of the greatest benefits of this process. Pacemakers and any other battery operated medical implants do have to be removed prior to flame cremation because the batteries explode at the temperatures used in the flame process. With Aquamation, the process is performed at a much lower temperature that does not react with the batteries. This means that the family does not have to incur the cost of pacemaker removal, nor does the loved one have to go through the surgical process of having the device removed. Operating staff are not at risk of injury. The pacemaker is recovered and recycled at the end of the process.

Does the process emit mercury to the air?

No. With flame cremation, which operates at 1600-1800°F, mercury contained in the amalgam of teeth becomes vaporized and released to the air. A 2015 study by a collaboration of researchers from University of Minnesota Dental School and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency was the first to quantify how much mercury we actually have in our teeth. Their study yielded a result of 2.3 grams per subject. According to a podcast with Dr. Sandra Myers, at the US’s current cremation rate of 50%, baby boomers alone will contribute 190,148.7 pounds of mercury to the atmosphere. Mercury vaporizes at 674.1°F, and alkaline hydrolysis uses much lower temperatures of 200-300°F. The mercury remains intact, bound in the teeth, and these teeth are recycled through an EPA- approved dental amalgam handler. Release of mercury from fillings to the environment is completely prevented.

What happens to the metal implants?

Medical implants are not destroyed in this process. The metals are clean, sterilize, and look brand new after the process. These metals are recycled through a metal refiner to be made into new materials. The metal refineries are amazed at the pristine condition of metals from alkaline hydrolysis versus flame cremation.

How long has this process been around?

The modern technology has been in use by universities and the scientific industries for over 25 years! It has been used for the final disposition of human bodies donated to medical science since 1995. The first pet facility was opened in 2007, and the first funeral home to use the technology was in 2011.

What is the science behind the process?

A commonly misunderstood fact is that it is actually the water that performs the breakdown during the Aquamation process, not the alkali.

A hydrolysis reaction is any type of reaction where bonds are cleaved by the insertion of water molecules. With alkaline hydrolysis, a base is added to water to create an alkaline environment. This changes the behavior of the water molecules, causing them to dissociate into hydrogen and hydroxide ions. The solution is only 5% alkali; 95% is water. Equally important to the process are the physical characteristics of the system (design), the continuous flow of the solution, and the heat. This all relates to collision theory and the rate and completeness of a reaction.

What happens in the process is Our bodies are 65% water to being with, along with fat, protein, minerals, and carbohydrates. During the process, fats are reduced to salts, protein to amino acids and small peptides (which are groups of a few amino acids), and carbs are reduced to sugars. The process breaks all organic materials into their most basic building blocks, so small that no trace of protein or nucleic acids (DNA/RNA) remain. The organics are dissolved into the water,