But 12 years on, word has spread and demand from animal lovers has seen the Whitley Brook Pet and Equine Crematorium at Kingsley near Frodsham grow into the biggest of its kind in the North of England handling thousands of animal cremations from across the country.
“It’s hard to believe that a project that I started following the sudden death of a family pet has led to what we have today,” said founder Tony Faulkner who began looking into facilities for animal cremation following the death of a dog called Jan which was owned by his mother and father-in-law.
“I was looking for a cremation service that would give pets the same respect as we accord humans, but sadly I could not find anything that I felt would be suitable back in 1999. So I decided to do something about it.”
The ex-farmer turned entrepreneur, who had just opened a craft centre on a sprawling site near Kingsley, discovered that an adjoining piece of land, a former animal-testing facility, actually contained a fully operational incinerator.
“I decided there and then to launch my own crematorium, one that would recognise how the loss of a much-loved pet can be heartbreaking and traumatic for the owner,” explained Tony. “I put together a small team and we were busy from the moment we opened our doors.”
Animal lovers from throughout the area began bringing their treasured pets and not all of them were cats and dogs. Guinea pigs, mice, rats, goldfish, snakes, lizards and more were delivered to Whitley Brook for a dignified final farewell.
“Ninety per centre of animals don’t die naturally but are put to sleep by Vets because of severe illness or old age,” added Tony. “It wasn’t long before vets in the region began sending animals directly to us.”
Receptionist Denise Schofield, the voice at the end of the telephone for grieving relatives who call in to book a cremation, has been a member of the Whitley Brook team since the early days.
“It’s all about respect and dignity,” said Denise who is used to offering help, advice, and sometimes a shoulder to cry on. “The loss of a pet can be devastating. I see some very distressed people coming in here and they deserve to be treated sensitively"
Speaking from a reception area crammed with scores of ‘Thank You’ cards, Denise explained how animals are collected from the homes of owners by one of a fleet of vans and usually within the same day.
Owners may attend the start of cremation itself or lay out their pets in the Farewell Room where they can spend some time alone with them to say their goodbyes. After the cremation the animal’s ashes are returned to the owners in one of a range of specially made caskets, usually within 48 hours.
“Owners may want to spread their pet’s ashes in a special place or in our Garden of Remembrance,”
But Whitley Brook has also played its part in the passing of some larger and unusual animals, according to Tony.
Race horses from courses across the country are sometimes among the two to three equine cremations that take place every week at Whitley Brook. Llamas and, on one occasion, a baboon were transported to the Kingsley site from Chester Zoo.
“Although the majority of the 125 cremations we carry out each week are for relatively small pets, the increasing number of equine cremations and the occasional request for us to deal with larger animals has meant we have had to supplement our fleet of vans with a vehicle capable of dealing with greater weights,” explained Tony.
“However, the main thrust of our business remains the same as it was when we started 12 years ago – to provide a personal, professional, caring and, above all, respectful cremation service. And I am sure that is the reason we continue to grow.”
Further information can be found the Whitley Brook web site by clicking onto: