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LOCKPORT – The chief coroner of Orleans County is proposing to build a facility to cremate pets in the City of Lockport.

Scott M. Schmidt, a funeral director in Albion for 32 years, told the Niagara County Planning Board last week that he wants to enter the business of “pet memorialization.”

“I’m getting a little burned out watching my family and friends die,” he said.

The site for the pet crematory would be 520 West Ave., the former site of Rodgers Welding Supply, located in an industrial zone.

The county planners, who approved the idea, were required to act because the location is within 500 feet of a state highway or a municipal boundary, County Senior Planner Amy Fisk said.

But the real decision lies in the hands of the Lockport Planning Board and Common Council, because Schmidt would need a special-use permit for the crematory.

Schmidt said the Rodgers family has verbally accepted his purchase offer for the 1,800-square-foot masonry building, but although he’s made a deposit with a real estate agent, he won’t actually make the deal until he has all the necessary approvals.

Besides the city’s go-ahead, he also needs a permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Schmidt said the building will undergo a complete renovation, and equipment must be purchased and shipped in. He said it might be as long as two years from now before the facility opens.

A pet cemetery is not part of the plan, nor is long-term storage of animal cadavers. Schmidt said he intends to promise customers that their pets’ ashes will be returned to them in two or three days.

He said the dead animals will not be frozen unless a customer doesn’t want the ashes, in which case the animal will be held to await a “collective cremation.”

Fisk said she checked out the nearest pet crematory, which is in West Seneca, and found there had been no complaints about odors even though there are homes nearby.

Schmidt said he chose Lockport as a good location because there are no pet cremation facilities between West Seneca and suburban Rochester. He was turned on to the idea by a fellow funeral director from Irondequoit who also diversified into pet memorialization.

Schmidt said that with the increase in childless couples, “Their pets are becoming their families.”

He said his building will include a space for final goodbyes to the animal before the cadaver is burned.

“It sounds silly, but people do it all the time,” Schmidt told the county planners.

He said he’d be willing to groom the animals, but he will not use formaldehyde or embalming fluid.

Schmidt said he doesn’t want to handle large animals.

“At this point, I would say nothing larger than a large dog. I would be very uncomfortable doing horses, as the folks in Ontario do,” Schmidt said.

He was referring to four animal funeral facilities in the Greater Toronto Area.

Schmidt said a key to a successful pet memorialization business is getting local veterinarians on board. “That’s what drives the business,” he said.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com