Funeral home owner Ryan Fredregill, who has funeral home businesses in Zearing, Baxter and Polk City, said that over the past two years, he has received up to three calls a month (on average) from people asking if he offers pet services, such as cremation.

“I have always had to say ‘no,’ until now,” Fredregill said.

As of March 10, Fredregill, and his partner Luke Nessa, of Zearing, have opened Pet Cremation Iowa. The crematory is located in Baxter, and the business will serve all of central Iowa.

“We will allow scheduled deliveries of pets to any of my funeral home locations as drop-off locations,” Fredregill said. “We will also pick up from families’ houses or their vet’s office.”

When it comes to why Fredregill, who grew up in the funeral business and graduated from mortuary school in 2000, wanted to get into the pet cremation business, he said he saw the need.

“Pets truly are an extended part of the family, and as a funeral director, I see a need to serve all family members,” he said.

Fredregill began talking with a friend of his who runs a large pet cremation business in Minneapolis about the specifics of why that friend has been so successful serving pet families.

“It turns out he operates his business a lot like a funeral home,” Fredregill said.

Fredregill and Nessa, who has a business and marketing degree from the University of Iowa and helps operate Nessa Inc., farm equipment company in Zearing, began by performing some local market analyses around central Iowa, and they were “astounded” at the outcome.

“The majority of pets that are cremated locally are handled in a mass cremation, and you (the pet owner) get one scoop back of multiple animals,” Fredregill said. “We knew there had to be a better way, and we were determined to provide just that to pet parents.”

Pet Cremation Iowa will operate its pet crematory just like a human crematory, he said.

“We will only cremate one pet at a time, ever,” Fredregill said.

He said his business will ensure the families that entrust their pet with him will get only their pet back.

Fredregill said Pet Cremation Iowa’s services won’t have to end just with cremation.

“If a family chooses to have a funeral or memorial service, we will offer to direct and coordinate that for them, just as we do for funerals,” he said.

Fredregill said Pet Cremation Iowa will offer cremation, memorial services, pet urns, pet cremation jewelry, obituaries, headstones and various engraved keepsakes.

“We have teamed up with a local minister, who agrees with our philosophy of ‘Pets are family too,’ and why not honor their life with a funeral or memorial service,” he said. “She had over 20 people attend her dog’s service when he passed.

“In funeral service, we are finding more and more pet owners are either being buried with their pet’s cremated remains or the ashes are being mixed together with their own cremains prior to burial. As with cremation in general, new products are coming out all the time with what can be done with cremated remains. From jewelry, or mixing remains in with blown glass, we will continue to strive to meet the needs and demands of our clientele and to assist them through the grieving process of losing a pet family member.”

As for affordability, Fredregill outlines the costs of having his business take care of a pet.

“We will cremate small pets alone, such as hamsters, ferrets, Guinea pigs, chinchillas, gerbils, hedgehogs, parrots, parakeets, cockatiels, mice, rats, turtles, bearded dragons, iguanas and snakes for $85; and rabbits, cats and dogs for $200,” he said. “We will pick up from your vet’s office or your residence for $75. Picking up your pet’s remains from Baxter is free of charge, or we will deliver them directly to the client’s home for a $75 fee.”

Fredregill said plans for the business started last December, when the LLC was created and the crematory was ordered.

The crematory, he said, is custom-built, and was delivered Feb. 13, but it took another month, he said, for the construction hookups to be made. Other things that had to be done, before starting business, was getting an air permit from the DNR.

“The process of human versus pet cremation is very similar, with the pet crematory being just a bit smaller,” Fredregill said. “A DNR air permit is required for both units, but the Iowa Board of Mortuary Science governs and requires an establishment license to operate a human unit.

“The pet cremation side of things currently does not have regulatory board and does not require an establishment license or funeral director’s license.”

But Fredregill is glad he has the knowledge and years of experience in mortuary science and funeral services to bring to his pet families.

“Any way we are able to serve various families in their time of need is what we are trained to do, and I am looking forward to helping on the pet side,” he said. “I have never cremated a pet, as Iowa law does not allow a pet in a human crematory.”

But, he adds, “I have run many different crematories and pet units are just smaller, so the process will be the same.”

Fredregill said he will be assisted in the business by a few part-time staffers, who are also excited to help Iowa families with their pet cremation needs.

“Serving a family, no matter what type of loss they have had, still greatly affects them,” he said. “Pets are like children, and the loss is unimaginable and still has a grief process. Everyone deals with grief differently, and my training will help me to help others.”