Business Spotlight: Guardian Animal Aftercare

By Martha Michael >>>

Many would agree that the hardest day in your life as a pet owner is when your animal dies. One cannot overestimate the significance of it, the fact that a family member is gone.

What Steve MacCorkle of Guardian Animal Aftercare offers is more than just pet cremation services. He aims to enable individuals to grieve in the way they choose.
“It never gets easier. It’s always a tough go,” MacCorkle says. “People don’t know where to turn, so we try to give them the answers.”
Educating the public is a large part of what he does, MacCorkle says.
“A lot of people don’t know how to handle the grieving process,” he says. “Losing unconditional love is much different than losing somebody else, another person in your life.
That is the reason Guardian Animal Aftercare offers grief counseling. And it’s free of charge for every client.
“We have Dr. Kathleen Ayl on staff. She focuses on compassionate pet loss and compassion fatigue in the veterinarian industry,” MacCorkle says.
Veterinarians have the third highest suicide rate of any profession, says the business owner, a fact most of us haven’t pondered. “When you think about it, they’re dealing with such accelerated life cycles,” he says. “They may have a client for 20 years, which means they’ve met three or four different puppies, and had to put down that many puppies. When an animal dies in a hospital, all those techs know that animal.”
Guardian Animal Aftercare was built on the premise that pet owners need a way to say goodbye to their animals in a meaningful and dignified fashion.
“In 2003 when we started the company, in L.A. there were two options when your animal passed – a private cremation that came back in a pink can or rendering, which is basically the glue factory. There weren’t many other options,” MacCorkle says. “It was started to raise the bar in animal aftercare.”
The new business became the first to have equipment and space large enough to cremate an animal the size of a horse. With a new expansion, Guardian Animal Aftercare totals about 15,000 square feet, which makes it easier to offer their services, which include both individual and communal pet cremation.
“We’re doing everything we can to make it as welcoming as possible,” MacCorkle says. “This industry has had a reputation for being behind closed doors. You leave your animal at the vet and you don’t know where he’s going. Here you can be a part of the process, or if you want to spend a few extra moments with your pet.”
The goal with the recent upgrades to the company’s building is to continue to make it “more welcoming,” MacCorkle says. There is a new mural on the building and an “oasis” feeling to the backyard.
Guardian Animal Aftercare completes approximately 1,400 animal cremations per month, about half individual and half communal services. About 18 of those are horses. Dog owners make up the largest number of the company’s clientele, followed by cats, and then rabbits. But the range of cremation services offered at Guardian is as wide as the imagination. They have cremated horses, gorillas, tigers, a lion, and a large number of pigs. If you need a pick-up service, they can make arrangements for a livestock hauler to go to your residence or ranch.
“This process is different for everybody,” MacCorkle says. “Some people are with their vet and say, ‘I’m done; I don’t need anything else.’ Other people want to make sure that their animal is handled with the utmost dignity and respect.”
Guardian Aftercare has about 60 walk-ins each month. Many of their clients also come from animal hospitals, some who want to be with their pets through every step of the process.
“We will allow that to take place, to make sure you’re getting exactly what you want out of our service,” MacCorkle says. “How do I know this is my animal? We have a computer tracking system … and we know exactly where that animal is at all times.”
After cremation you can receive a lock box with an engraved name plate, which is standard, or upgrades using blown glass or jewelry with ashes in it.
MacCorkle says his staff keeps turnaround time as short as possible between receiving your pet and giving you the “cremains.”
But it’s the support system for Guardian’s human clients that MacCorkle believes is the standout in the industry.
“I believe for most crematories their grief support is maybe a phone number to a grief hotline,” he says. “But having Kathleen on staff is huge. We have eight different locations of grief support groups between Santa Barbara and Culver City.”
Client feedback has included the appreciation that Guardian Aftercare is so easily accessible.
“We’re here seven days a week and we’re always there for our customers. A lot of people are surprised by that,” MacCorkle says. “We love having people come in, and for a lot of people it’s a very important part of the process.”
Guardian Animal Aftercare is located at 11173 Tuxford in Sun Valley. For more information, e-mail or call (818) 768-6465.