A pet funeral association has slammed the sentence given to the owner of pet crematorium who gave bereaved owners ashes from the wrong animals.

Allan McMasters appeared at Cannock Magistrates Court last month (19 November) and was handed a 12-month community order including 200 hours of unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay more than £6,400 in costs, £2,000 of which will go to victims.

Stephen Mayles, vice chairman of the Association of Private Pet Cemeteries and Crematoria, described the sentence given to McMasters as “ridiculously lenient”.

After a tip-off that animals were not being cremated, trading standards officers visited Swanpit Pet Crematorium in Gnosall, Staffordshire, in November 2015.

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What they found, in the words of district judge Jack McGarva, was “something out of a horror movie”.

The officers found chest freezers filled with dead animals, plastic bin liners full of ashes and horse carcasses at the yard.

McMasters pleaded guilty to fraud and animal by-product offences.

His defence said he had not set out to deceive people.

“For the life of me, I can’t understand why Mr McMasters has also been allowed to carry on his business,” said Mr Mayles.

Mr Mayles urged the public and vets to do their homework thoroughly on pet crematoria in the wake of the scandal.

“The sad truth is that so many similarly disturbing cases have been brought to our attention over the past few years,” he said.

“This particular operator was not registered with the APPCC [Association of Private Pet Cemeteries and Crematoria]. Our members must operate with complete transparency and adhere to a strict code of practice.”

The APPCC points out that the pet cremation industry is unregulated, apart from an obligation to comply with waste (animal by-product) disposal and The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.

“Swanpit is an extreme case, but we believe the mis-selling of services is rife in our sector, especially in relation to how pets are handled and transported,” added Mr Mayles.

“We are doing everything we can to ensure the high standards the public would rightly expect.

“Sadly, many pet owners never get told their pet’s ashes were destined for a council tip, or that their bodies have been collected with waste and their bodies heaped in the back of a van.

“To many people pets are family too, and if their owners want to guarantee a send-off which reflects that, they need to ask a lot of questions.”

Ref: H&H 24 December, 2015