Pet crematory may open in Charlotte

Charlotte could get its first pet crematory if the City Council approves a zoning change requested last month by a Michigan business owner.

Currently, most Charlotte pets are sent from veterinary offices to businesses outside the city limits for cremation. Huntersville, Concord and Cherryville all have pet crematories. The ashes are then disposed of, delivered back to the veterinarian or picked up by pet owners.

But Tim Santeiu wants to open a branch of his Detroit-area company, Faithful Companion Memorials, in southern Charlotte, and he has asked the City Council for help. He said he plans to have carpeting and ceramic tile and provide a “comfortable setting for a family if they do decide to come in and witness a cremation.”

“Today pets are family members and people don't want their pets treated like roadkill,” Santeiu said. “For a lot of families, it's their children.”

It is unclear why no pet crematories have opened in Charlotte. But it could have to do with the current zoning rules: All crematory businesses in Charlotte are allowed only in business or office districts, said Charlotte-Mecklenburg planner Tim Maynes.

“That's not appropriate. It never has been, in my mind,” said Santeiu, who wants to operate in an industrial district. He is looking at properties near Interstate 77 and Tyvola Road, he said.

City council member Andy Dulin agrees that an industrial site would be best.

“Obviously that's not going in a strip center in Cotswold,” he said. Dulin has asked the council to vote on the matter Sept. 15.

Charles Crook, owner of Good Shepherd Pet Services in Concord, offers a variety of products for Charlotte-area pet owners – hand-blown, glass globes that display a loved one's ashes, “cremation keepsake” pendants and engraved urns. Good Shepherd even offers freeze-dry preservation to “preserve your pet in a restful and peaceful manner,” according to the company's Web site.

Crook said he spent nine months trying to open a crematory in Charlotte but he ran into so many government hurdles that he gave up. The staff members there were baffled by his business, he said.

“When I went in there and said I want to put in a pet crematory, they said ‘Whoa, we don't know what to do with you,'” he said. “Because of the uniqueness of what we do, nobody wanted to touch us.”

Crook said he looked at various Charlotte business districts, but none met the building standards for cremation. He hired an architect and had plans drawn. But he said that, in one case, he realized the fire walls the city required were so thick they would not leave him enough space for his work.

“It was a very, very expensive endeavor,” Crook said.

For his Concord site, the Cabarrus County process was much easier, he said.

“It took me less than two weeks to have everything turned on,” he said.