Owner of pet cemetery commits suicide after opening of investigation for fraudulent behavior

The owner of an Illinois pet cemetery, Joe Abts, reportedly committed suicide last Wednesday after the start of an investigation by the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Department for allegedly fraudulent behaviour in providing customers with “fake ashes”. It is not clear whether the customers received the ashes of pets other than their own or whether they received ashes that did not originate from the remains of deceased pets.

Either way, the ashes were not those of the customer’s deceased pet. The pet cemetery was founded in 1984 and is therefore a very long-standing business. The sheriff’s department received a complaint early in July. The complaint alleged that deceased pets had not been cremated when the owner had paid for the service. The remains of three pets were found in a freezer lying outside on the property by Richie Rich an animal rescue volunteer. There were three animals inside. One of which had a microchip. The owner of the animal was identified and was known to have received their pet’s ashes. Therefore the ashes were not those of her/his pet. The animal was a cat that had purportedly been cremated in 2013.

The investigation even found an animal from 2001. This implies that the fraud had been going on for a very long time. It would seem that the criminal aspect of this case has to be closed because the alleged perpetrator of the crime is now deceased. However, pet owners can bring a civil action against the crematorium for compensation. The crematorium is: Katy’s Pet Cemetery and Crematory.

I feel I have to comment about this. This is firstly a very sad case because the person allegedly involved in the fraud has committed suicide. However, it is also sad because it would seem that many hundreds, perhaps thousands of cat and dog owners have not received the ashes of their beloved, deceased companion animal. How do they feel now? It must be distressing.

The story does, however, bring to mind the great difficulty of ensuring that the ashes that you receive from a pet crematorium are those of your cat or dog. I don’t think you can guarantee it unless, as I did, you take your deceased cat to a pet crematorium and you instruct an individual cremation and then you watch your cat being carried to the oven. You place your cat in the oven. You watch the door being closed. You watch the oven being turned on et cetera. In short, you supervise the whole process. Then, you know with 100% certainty that the ashes that you take home which you place in an urn and possess for the remainder of your life are those of your dearly beloved deceased cat.

P.S. Without in any way being disrespectful, true ashes of a deceased animal do not contain any DNA from the animal. They could be the ashes of anything and therefore the connection between the ashes and the pet is an emotional one.

sources: various online including the Daily Mail, WQAD.com and Patch.com.

6 thoughts on “Owner of pet cemetery commits suicide after opening of investigation for fraudulent behavior”

  1. The company that contracts with the VCA where Kitten was PTS offers a witnessed cremations. This was NOT a pretty place with curtains and soft music of painted walls. It was an industrial building with three cremations ovens. One large for the mass cremations and large animals like horses. A smaller one meant for dogs and cats. About 8 go in on a large tray with fire bricks in between them. A grid is marked on paper on the work desk with the pets name , ID info. When it comes out the ashes are swept up and tagged by the grid. There are freezers to hold the bodies until they are processed and for the mass cremations where no one claims the pet or wants them back it’s sort of a pallet of black garbage bags waiting their turn. My understand is those ashes go to the landfill.
    The employee who was BTW extremely kind made do with a cart and a blanket to make a viewing for me in the middle of all this. Let me watch him footprint her. Take some hair and a second set of footprints on some parchment. He carried her so sweetly to that oven he had carefully cleaned in front of me to remove all previous ashes. Shut the door and started the oven It took a little over an hour for her. When the door opened it wasn’t a pile of ashes but a mound that still greatly resembled the shape of a cat. He swept them carefully into a box. From there to her little urn which was handed to me.
    For us it was about respecting her little body. Burying her outside was out of the question. She hated dirt. Preened constantly. Lived for the softest seat in the house. Housecats present a special dilemma.

  2. With all due respect to those with a different opinion, I grieve long after I’ve received ashes that were supposedly of my pets. I understand they are “only” ashes and perhaps they were “only” of my cat, but it doesn’t change the fact that someone was supposed to carry out a simple service that we pay a hefty sum for. It begs the age-old question: is nothing sacred? I’m not even a spiritual man but this hurts me deeply. I’ve had reasons to suspect such morally bankrupt crime was going on but yeah, one can rarely prove it save for the unique circumstance here. I once received a bag (in a box) of ashes that was huge compared to the cat’s body that I sent to them, and especially to the others I’ve received over the years.

  3. I have no desire for the ashes of my cat, or any loved one who has died. Having ashes in a container does nothing for me. Once I’m passed the initial grieving and acceptance, I move on. If I have a new cat or human relationship, my focus will be on them, rather than the one who died. My memories of the times we shared will hopefully remain….at least some of them.

    I have a feeling that there’s a lot of deception in the cremation business of pets, and humans. And a lot of manipulation of people’s emotions and vulnerability.

    And now we know that many dead pets aren’t actually cremated, but sold to rendering plants who supply pet food manufacturers. Many people don’t want to believe this; it’s too awful to consider. I’ve had friends say “Don’t tell me; I don’t want to know.”

    Would anyone cremate valuable pet remains when they could be sold? Maybe some, for the right price. Either way there is value in dead pets, for those in the industry.


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