Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Help Me Howard: Cremation
There is nothing more precious to many pet owners than their animal, and when they die, many people want to remember them in a special way. One South Florida man tried, but his cremation plan turned out terrible. What can he do? It's why he called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- If you want to make Hector Rosales smile, mention his dog.
Hector Martinez Rosales: "I was lucky to have a dog named Lucky."
Lucky to have his 14-year-old Labrador named Lucky. His dog. His friend.
Hector Martinez Rosales: "Spoiled rotten. He loved boats, and he loved the water."
But after 14 years, Lucky got sick, could no longer get up, and Hector had to face that horrible decision every pet owner dreads.
Hector Martinez Rosales: "I always told myself that I wasn't going to make him suffer. He lived such an amazing life, and I always knew that when it was time, it was going to happen, so I was always very strong about that."
Hector took Lucky to two different vets to confirm that nothing more could be done, and as he got ready to put Lucky to sleep, he already had a plan.
Hector Martinez Rosales: "My plans were to get him cremated, get his ashes back. I already had my little box ready with his picture, and hopefully get his ashes back and bring him home."
This is the box that held the treats Lucky loved. Lucky's picture was on the outside, and it would hold his remains. But today, the box is empty.
Hector Martinez Rosales: "This is not just an animal. This is 14 years of my life. And I trusted them, and this happened."
When Hector took Lucky to the vet, the $486 bill included $170 for a private cremation. But when Hector called to pick up Lucky's ashes, he got the news.
Hector Martinez Rosales: "That they were very sorry, that the technician that had picked up Lucky did not read the paperwork, and that Lucky was cremated along with other dogs, and his ashes were no longer in existence. They were discarded."
Instead of the private cremation that Hector had paid for, Lucky was cremated with other animals and the ashes disposed of.
Hector Martinez Rosales: "And I was furious. I was yelling. I was very emotional."
Hector was furious and realized there was little he could do about Lucky's ashes. But at least he expected the vet to refund his money for Lucky's last visit.
Hector Martinez Rosales: "I was hoping that they were just going to send me a letter, saying, 'We're going to refund the entire payment.' Instead, she sends me an apology letter with a check for $170. I have yet to cash the check. I have no plan to cash the check."
The $170 was the cost of the private cremation. The vet refused to refund the rest of the $486 for the visit that day, leaving Hector heartbroken and fuming.
Hector Martinez Rosales: "They didn't show a lot of compassion. They have neglected my phone calls. They have, pretty much, 'Well, we'll pay you the money for the cremation. That's it. We're done with you.'"
Well Howard, you pay for a private cremation for your animal so you can have the ashes. You didn't get it. But legally, what can you do?
Howard Finkelstein: "Unfortunately for pet owners, the state of Florida does not give pets rights. In other words, the legislature considers them no different than a couch or a chair, meaning that Hector is only entitled to get back the $170 that he paid for the special cremation."
When we spoke to the vet's office, they told us, there was a communication problem when a technician sent Lucky to the cremation center, that they were sorry, but they would not return the money Hector paid for the vet to examine the dog that day, just the $170 for the private cremation.
And Howard, you said dogs don't have any rights. What if a human cremation gets messed up?
Howard Finkelstein: "Humans are different, and if this had happened to a person, juries have awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars for mistakes just like this."
It's all terrible news for Hector, who doesn't have his dog or his ashes and just wants to make sure this does not happen to other pet owners.
Hector Martinez Rosales: "Hopefully, I guess I'm doing this, because I want them to pay more attention. We trust you with our animals. They should be more careful when they pick up the body."
Patrick Fraser: "If you want to be sure your pet gets a private cremation and is not put in with other animals, I was told you can go to the cremation and watch it to make sure you get your animal's ashes. Just ask. Hector wasn't told that."
Problems piled up, making you wish you had a dog's life? You don't need to be lucky. Just make a local call to us. No one ever called us man's best friend, but we will fetch a legal solution.