At first glance, Jerry Rosenbaum's funeral home business looks routine enough -- custom-made caskets, deeded lots, viewings, graveside services, tombstones and floral arrangements are part of his ordinary workday.
It seems ordinary, that is, until the Howard County cemetery and funeral home operator explains that most of his caskets are under 3 feet long, most of the dead are under 20 years old, and most ofthe tombstones bear the names of Fido, Frisky or Spot.
Rosenbaum, 45, has operated the 13-acre Rosa Bonheur Memorial Park -- the nation's oldest and largest pet cemetery -- in the 7200 block of Washington Boulevard near Dorsey for seven years.
And, if state regulators allow, he and his J.R. NOW Inc. will expand into North Carroll.
"The death of a pet presents a choice you don't have withthe death of a loved one," the one-time Baltimore entrepreneur said."With a loved one, you can't just call up the doctor and say, 'Dis
pose of this body.' When you decide to bury a pet, you've made a choice of love."
That choice is what Rosenbaum says is behind his plans for building what would be the county's first -- and the state's second -- pet crematory in the North Carroll Industrial Center in Silver Run.
Rosenbaum has been offering a cremation option to customers for years. Should the Maryland Air Management Administration issuea permit to install the crematory, he no longer would have to contract out the cremation.
"We want to do this because there are so many people who are looking for dignity for their pets," he said.
Since its opening in 1935, Bonheur Park has seen the burials of 28,000 animals. In 1977, it became the first pet cemetery in the world to allow humans to be buried alongside their pets.
Rosenbaum's J.R. NOW Inc. recorded revenues at the cemetery last year of about $450,000.
The search for a site for the $33,000 crematory began two years ago, when regulators forced Rosenbaum to discontinue using a crematory at Bonheur, saying it didn't meet emission standards.
The search led to a 10,000-square-foot building in the Silver Run industrial park along Route 97, where zoning allows for crematory use.
"That is one of the few pieces of land in the county where he could do that," said William E. Jenne, the business development manager with the county's Office of Economic Development. "But that is kind of a 'Not in my backyard' kind of use, not a real common use."
Rosenbaum purchasedthe building for about $150,000 in July and has since put an additional $100,000 into it. He applied for a permit to use the crematory inAugust, but the permit cannot be issued until a public hearing requested by the Carroll County Health Department is held.
The hearing was prompted by two phone calls to the department from concerned residents.
Air Management officials with the state said yesterday thatno date for the hearing has been scheduled and that permit approval is still months away.
No written complaints from Silver Run residents had been received by the Air Management Administration or by the Health Department as of late yesterday.
"It doesn't seem to botheranyone around here," said the owner -- who declined to give his name-- of Terry's Body Shop. The crematory would be in the same industrial park as Terry's.
The crematory would handle about 240 animals -- one at a time -- every month, Rosenbaum said. Pet owners would haveall of the options that are available for human remains, he said.
While only one pet crematory and 11 pet incinerators exist in the state, the method is far from unaccepted.
"A crematory is rather practical," said Taneytown veterinarian David S. Edwards Jr. "It is really the superior way to go."
Rosenbaum's services will be offered at a cost ranging from $150 for cremation to $295 for burial at Bonheur.