9 Investigates: Animal cremation controversy at Apopka company

Members of a family thought they were going to have a private cremation service for their dog. But when they arrived at the Apopka business, their beloved pet was already gone.

APOPKA, Fla. — Members of a family thought they were going to have a private cremation service for their dog. But when they arrived at the Apopka business, their beloved pet was already gone.

9 Investigative reporter Daralene Jones heard similar stories from other pet owners who used Greenbrier Memory Gardens in Apopka.

Lakota was like a fifth child for the Bonsor family. Last month, old age led to arthritis and liver failure.

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The family vet at Ocoee Animal Hospital recommended Greenbrier Memory Gardens for cremation.

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Family members told Eyewitness News they thought they would get one last moment with him during a viewing, scheduled on a Tuesday.

“She said, ‘I'm sorry to tell you, but Lakota was cremated last Friday, and his ashes are already on the way to the vet,’” Kasandra Bonsor told Eyewitness News.

Bonsor said she and her four girls are still devastated.

“She never called me, wrote a note, an apology,” Bonsor said.

Greenbrier is rated A+ with the Better Business Bureau. Eyewitness News found reviews online detailing similar stories of pets that were cremated prior to what owners thought was a scheduled viewing.

The owner, Debbie Mulrine, took Eyewitness News on a tour of the facility during our unannounced visit, to prove she runs a clean operation.

She insists Bonsor's dog was cremated privately, but acknowledged a terrible mix-up caused the family to miss out on a viewing.

“There was no hold on the paperwork,” Mulrine told Eyewitness News.

Mulrine admits this isn't the first time a pet has been cremated prior to what a family thought would be a private viewing. But she told Eyewitness News that the staff isn't always to blame.

“In some cases, yes, we have cremated the pets prior to, only because, and again no blame on anybody, but it's because of the way the hospital tag or either mis-tagged,” Mulrine said.

Ocoee Animal Hospital and a veterinarian in Georgia said they have severed ties with Greenbrier because of concerns from clients.

The Bonsor's have sent letters to lawmakers and even the state attorney general, requesting they provide more oversight at pet cremation facilities.

“I feel like I really failed him in the end by taking him there. I'm really kicking myself, taking him to that place,” Bonsor said.

State Rep. Geraldine Thompson and Attorney General Pam Bondi have responded to Bonsor's letters.  Bondi’s office sent her complaint to the Department of Agriculture for review.

Ocoee Animal Hospital did not comment on Bonsor's case.