Journal Staff

Dr. Joel Joseph and his staff at Wise Owl Animal Hospital are moving into 2020 with a new venture in sight — a crematorium, chapel and boarding house, all located in Mangilao behind the Guam Power Authority and Guam Waterworks Authority building.

Groundbreaking on the 14-acre lot will be sometime in January. The crematorium and chapel will be open by July 4, with the boarding house following suit before the end of 2020, Joseph said.

Joseph originally purchased the plot of land for $1.1 million three years ago. He also told the Journal that the land will be paid off by the middle of 2020. He estimated that the construction of the three structures will cost around $3 million.

The architect who designed and will work on the construction of the structures is Alan Chen, vice president and registered architect of E. M. Chen & Associates Inc.

“The crematory we are going to have is going to be 100% green,” Joseph said. “There’s no burning, it’s ‘aquamation.’”

“Aquamation” uses alkaline hydrosis to accelerate and mimic the process a body goes through during decomposition in the soil. It uses chemicals diluted with water, slowly circulated through the cremation chamber, leaving only the ash of the bones. Wise Owl will start with one machine, but will have room for up to two more after the initial installation.

The crematorium will also feature a bay of freezers to store animals before the aquamation process begins.

After cremation, an owner can decide if they would like the remains back, or, according to Joseph, the owner can choose to donate the remains to an environmental cause. “We have made arrangements with the Guam Farmer’s Co Op to try to reduce their fertilizer cost by 50% [by giving them the remains.] So what happens to your pet? It gets spread on a farmer’s field, and that’s kind of romantic.”

As far as licenses go, there are no extra licenses needed from the Environmental Protection Agency or otherwise because the crematory is not a pollutant. Joseph said that while the crematory does not discharge into the sewer system, if it did, the waste would be pH balanced and fully compatible with sewers and septic systems.

Dr. Joel Joseph, veterinarian and owner of Wise Owl Animal Hospital, on Dec. 10

Photo by Morgan Legel

Joseph said Wise Owl will offer discounted cremation services to the mayors of Guam, to help deal with the stray “boonie” dog situation. He said he hopes this will help prevent the illegal dumping of dead animals, especially into the ocean.

The other structure in the Mangilao property is the chapel. This is where owners can host services for their beloved pet, after its passing. “It’s a nice way to say goodbye,” said Joseph.

One of the biggest structures will be the new boarding facility, which will increase Wise Owl’s boarding abilities by more than 100%. Currently, at the Tamuning hospital, Wise Owl can board 10 to 11 cats and about 30 dogs. In the new facility, there will be 21 “luxury” kennels with a view outside and 24 standard kennels for cats, each able to accommodate more than one cat. For dogs, there will be 80 kennels, with the “luxury” ones facing a bone-shaped doggy swimming pool, most of which can also accommodate two or more animals. Joseph noted that since the kennels are on the larger side, they can also accommodate larger animals as well.

There will also be a quarantine section within the boarding house, for animals that need separated after travel to the island.

Wise Owl plans to close its boarding section at the Tamuning location.

There are also plans for a dog park on the back of the property, according to Joseph. Wise Owl will use the park to play with animals being boarded, but it will be open for public use as well. “So instead of being on the main road,” Joseph said, “the access will be all the way around through the back, so that if dogs escape, they’re not escaping into the road.”

The whole facility will be utilizing “water-catchment,” Joseph said. This means any water used can be caught and reused, especially the 400 gallons of water a day the cremation process takes. Along with this environmentally friendly procedure, the facility will also be “massively solar-powered,” he said.

Out of the 14 acres on the lot, the new crematorium, chapel, boarding house and public dog park will take up a fourth of the land, leaving room for what Joseph said could ultimately be a second location of the Wise Owl Animal Hospital, mainly used to treat animals for emergencies. mbj