Crematorium sought

Animal lovers want a more convenient way to say goodbye

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— Sue and Dave Oakley are seeking a more convenient final resting place for pets in northwest Colorado.

As the Oakleys' dog Shasta grows frailer with each passing year, the Oakleys are spearheading an in-depth discussion with local animal lovers to install a crematorium soon in the Yampa Valley.

The city and county planned on installing a crematorium with enough space in the shelter during construction four years ago.

But because of budgeting constraints, the crematorium was never installed. For residents in northwest Colorado, digging a grave for a pet or sending it to be cremated on the Front Range are the only options. The Oakleys said they had taken their dog 13 years ago to the crematorium in Denver and they never wanted to go through that again.

"We wanted to keep our money here and be with our dog," Sue Oakley said. "Our dog now is 13 and she's starting to fail."

Wendy Dubord, deputy city manager, was the project manager at the time the shelter was built about four years ago. Dubord said the city and the county split the cost of the shelter in half.

Sue Oakley said she assumed the animal shelter provided a crematorium until she talked with her veterinarian about future plans for Shasta.

"Our vet said we'll have to take her to the Front Range," Sue Oakley said.

Sue Oakley said local veterinarians freeze the deceased animals until they have collected enough to send them to the Front Range for cremation. She said some large animals may end up in graves dug by pet owners outside of city limits, although that is difficult in the winter, or in the landfill because of financial restrictions. Although no plans have been finalized, Sue Oakley gathered local veterinarians, the Northwest Colorado Animal Assisted League, Routt County Humane Society and the City of Steamboat Springs to discuss viable options for an animal crematorium.

When the animal shelter was built four years ago in Critter Court off Twentymile Road, the city and county made space for an animal crematorium. However, there were budget constraints that prevented them from following through with the crematorium. The group has not yet set a budget for the future crematorium but they know that the crematorium unit is $35,000 alone.

The crematorium unit looks like a large furnace with a flue attached to it that is electronically controlled.

Maurice Bunn, a local independent grant writer, said he recently visited the shelter and concluded that this may cost more than they think. Dubord said the city is not prepared to expand the animal shelter to accommodate the crematorium; however, there will need to be some modifications and interior work done probably.

Sue Oakley said the group discussed the option of starting a fund-raising campaign and writing grants to get the money for a crematorium.

Bunn said because a crematorium has never existed in Steamboat Springs no one is quite sure of the expenses.

"This is just in the beginning stages," Sue Oakley said, adding their goal is to have funds by June 2002 and have the crematorium running by October 2002. "Dave and I are not part of any group. (We're) just concerned citizens," she said.

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