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Dead Pet Recycling Plant Gets Mixed Reception

Nick AmiesApril 1, 2006

The recent opening of an animal recycling plant near Mannheim has caused a wave of criticism across Germany after an animal interest magazine ran a survey among its readers asking whether the project was in bad taste.

In life, a feline friend. In death, a potential health risk that needs disposing ofImage: dpa

The Doggone Project was set up on the outskirts of the German city to alleviate the problem Mannheim was experiencing concerning the disposal of deceased animal companions after a study revealed that large numbers of dead pets being buried on public grounds posed a potential health risk.

German law states that the burial of anything dead in a public place is illegal and a threatened enforcement of that law in the city had led to a quandary among humans whose animal friends had ceased to be. No longer would putting Fluffy in a shoe box and burying her under her favorite tree in the park be tolerated.

In an attempt to avoid carcass-strewn streets, local entrepreneur Bernd Katzer approached the local authorities with his business idea after the topic had dominated the letters pages in the local press for a number of weeks.

Deceased animal companions turned into fertilizer

Moshammers Hund Daisy traumatisiert
The loss of a furry companion is handled with respect by DoggoneImage: AP

Katzer proposed that, for a minimal fee, the corpses of dead household pets would be collected by Doggone operatives -- after a private service had been held at the home of the grieving family -- and taken to a recycling plant where they would be cremated and turned into fertilizer.

Mourning pet owners could then take some solace from the fact that their furry beloveds had been returned to nature to the benefit of the environment in a locally approved and legal manner.

While some Mannheim residents saw the project as a bit strange and even a little morbid, the initial results showed that owners of the deceased who had used the service were happy with it and felt their pets had gotten a respectful send-off.

But when animal interest magazine Kuscheln Kumpel (Cuddle Pals) received a number of letters from pet lovers less than enamored with the Doggone service, the magazine took the side of the angry owners and wrote a piece that condemned the practice, followed by a survey asking whether readers found the project unethical.

Animal lovers spilt over ethical issue of pet recycling

Paper, plastic, glass...guinea pigs?Image: Bilderbox

The response to the survey was mixed with 53 percent of pet owners against the project on ethical grounds while 41 percent favored the idea.

Those against Doggone were scathing in their comments. "How can anyone who has spent their lives with an animal see it discarded like household trash?" wrote one. "These people are monsters and the pet owners who agree to this abomination are no better. They should be thrown on the pyre."

Supporters took a more pragmatic approach. "The pet which was my companion for twenty years was not the animal I gave to Doggone," one wrote. "The body was merely that – a vessel. Simba was more than just flesh and he lives on in our memories."

"What am I going to do with a dead 200lb Rottweiler?" said another. "I'm more than happy not to have to dig a hole for the brute. If someone comes along and takes care of it then great."

Death is part of life, says entrepreneur

Gräber auf einem Friedhof
Pet funerals and monuments are very expensiveImage: BilderBox

Bernd Katzer seemed unmoved by the criticism: "It's purely a case of supply and demand. Living things die, that's a fact of life. We are all subject to society's rules. That's another. When things die and we can no longer bury them on public property then we have to find an alternative. Doggone is that alternative."

While discontent seems to be simmering in some quarters of the pet-loving world, it has still not boiled over to an extent that worries Katzer or the Mannheim authorities. Until a wider protest or legal case is mounted, the deceased pets of Mannheim will continue to be returned to nature via the recycling plant.

This story is a complete fabrication and is printed here to mark April Fool’s Day.