COLORADO SPRINGS — For Jeremy DeWall, his dogs are like children to him. DeWall has had three of his dogs pass away within the last year.
Most recently, his dog Tommy died unexpectedly at the emergency vet during the last week of June.
"Tommy, he was kind of the goofball. Everybody called him the gentle giant."
Like the two dogs before him, DeWall made arrangements through his veterinarian for Tommy to be cremated at Lasting Paws, a pet crematorium in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
DeWall says he used the same provider for his two dogs who passed away before Tommy and had their ashes back from the crematorium within one week.
That was not the case for Tommy's ashes.
After just over two weeks, DeWall decided to call Lasting Paws to ask about Tommy's ashes. He claims the employee he spoke with was "short" with him and eventually asked when exactly Tommy was supposed to be cremated after learning his dog's body was still waiting at the crematorium.
"Her response was 'When we get to it' and I flat out told her that is not a good answer for someone who just lost their loved one."
The next day, DeWall decided to go down to Lasting Paws in person to ask about Tommy, but he says when he got there he could see inside the building where cremations take place and claims there were "piles" of blue and black trash bags. After speaking with staff members, DeWall determined that he believed the trash bags he saw were dead animals waiting to be cremated.
"These are animals who are entrusted to humans throughout their entire life and to be treated by people in this way, in their last time that their body is essentially in its form on this earth... it's unacceptable," said DeWall.
Lasting Paws provided this statement:
“We take all customer service inquiries very seriously. Working in our business and as pet parents ourselves, we understand a pet’s end-of-life is a very sensitive and emotional time for each family. We make every effort to return pets back to their families as soon as possible. Return times can vary dependent on the complexity of services requested.
Unfortunately, as with most businesses throughout the United States, we experienced labor shortages here in Colorado Springs, causing some service delays. Upon learning of the delays in Colorado Springs, we took immediate action to resolve the situation. We have focused on hiring additional staff, and with the installation of our new equipment, we are now operating at normal service levels, meaning the prior delays have been resolved. Moving forward, we will continue to closely monitor operations and we have implemented an improved communication process allowing us to better inform our customers of any potential delays.”
The company claims pets have never been "piled" on one another but says they are laid on vertical racks.
Lasting Paws denied answering specific questions, including how many animals they typically have on a waiting list, how many animals were on that list when the facility was experiencing delays, or precisely which type of equipment was broken.
A local veterinarian who contacted Lasting Paws with concerns says she toured the facility after problems had been addressed. She says she has "comfort that Lasting Paws has deployed the resources to resolve their delays and potential concerns; yet will be monitoring this closely moving forward".
This story was originally published by KOAA in Colorado Springs, Colorado.