Paws & Claws is a pet company, you can tell that from its name and its website with pictures of a Labrador retriever looking off into the sunset and a solider bending down to comfort his canine companion.

But it’s not your typical pet retailer. Orange-based Paws & Claws performs water cremations, one of only handful in California.

Known as alkaline hydrolysis in science circles, the technology is legal across eight states but less common in California where it’s still illegal for use with people.

Owner Brian Kondrath – a funeral director of 20 years – said he was drawn to the process after reading about it in a funeral directors’ trade magazine. It is touted as better for the environment and gentler.

“When I saw this process and how clean, green and easier it was than the flame, I got interested and studied,” Kondrath, a Brea resident, said.

Crematoriums are always under scrutiny by regulatory agencies as one of the top emitters of mercury, behind industries such as mining, experts say. Alkaline hydrolysis’s carbon footprint is about 75 percent smaller, it doesn’t cause mercury emissions and is more energy efficient.

In May, Kondrath, 52, decided to try something new, enlisting his wife, Deanna Kondrath, and his stepson, Mark McDaniel, to start Orange County’s first and only pet “aquamation” business, as he calls it.

He said he was inspired to work with pets after noticing how important they were to many of his clients, some asking to have their pets remains mixed with theirs. After a while, if someone said they had a strange request, he’d just respond “dog or cat?”


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