A family is distraught after their beloved pet's body was found dumped in a field.
Border Collie Bournville was put down after it developed cancerous lumps on its head.
Its ashes were passed back to the family after cremation - but days later, owner James Brown, of Hucknall, was told the body of his pet had been found in a field and identified by its microchip.
Three other dogs were also discovered in Lower Hartshay, in Derbyshire, on August 15.
"We're really, really shocked," said Mr Brown, 29.
"We're very upset. We paid extra money to get him back and it's not him.
"He was a lovely dog and he deserved better than that."
The RSPCA were called and police are now investigating.
Two of the four dogs, including Bournville, originated from Ambivet veterinary clinic, in Heanor, which says it is very distressed by the news.
The other two dogs are not believed to have been identified yet.
Normally, dogs are cremated together and ashes are not returned, but the family paid about £120 to have Bournville cremated alone and be sent his ashes.
David Stone, business manager of Ambivet, said the dogs' bodies were sent to a Derbyshire pet crematorium after they were put down.
He said: "Our relationship with this company was severed immediately on Tuesday afternoon and alternative arrangements were made with another operator.
"We feel very distressed by the whole thing.
"We've visited both the owners concerned. It's in the hands of the local authority and we're co-operating fully with them over this."
Mr Brown said the discovery of 12-year-old's Bournville's body had been distressing for the whole family.
"We paid extra to have the dog cremated and the ashes returned a week later," he said.
"My mum and step-dad went to pick up the ashes and they got them in a bag with a card stuck in saying Bournville. So, as far as they were concerned, Bournville was back with us."
But when Bournville's body was found dumped, and identified through his microchip, the family was left 'shocked and confused'.
The family, who have two other dogs called Hamish and Elliott, wanted to go and identify their pet's body.
"We wanted to go for our own peace of mind," said Mr Brown. "It wasn't the prettiest of sights, it was quite upsetting.
"His fur was all wet and matted down, and he had maggots all over him.
"We're wanting to bury the dog ourselves now so we've got him with us.
"He just didn't deserve that, he was a member of the family."
Derbyshire Police are investigating the incident and a spokesperson from Amber Valley Borough Council said: "Amber Valley Borough Council can confirm that it was contacted by the RSPCA on August 18 regarding four bodies of dogs found in Lower Hartshay at the weekend.
"Staff from the council's environmental services directorate, along with the Environment Agency are currently looking into the matter, but cannot comment until all of the facts have been established."
The RSPCA says they have no welfare concerns about the dogs before they died.
The dogs are now being kept at Ambivet veterinary clinic while the matter is investigated.
A Derbyshire police spokeswoman said: "Police are investigating allegations of fraud after dogs that were thought to have been cremated were found dead in a field.
"Officers have received allegations that at least two of the dogs had been sent for cremation.
"The police have liaised with the RSPCA, Amber Valley Environmental Health and the Environment Agency during the investigation.
"Enquiries are continuing into the allegations. Officers can confirm that no reports of burglaries at any local pet crematoria have been received by police."
Owner of Peak Pet Cremations in Heage near Belper, Jennifer Buxton, said the company has been closed down since.
"All I know is there was a theft from our premises which obviously included some bagged scrap metal and some deceased pets were taken at the same time."
But when further questioned by the Evening Post, she said the theft was not reported to the police because at the time they did not know the animals had been taken.
She said she had been away at the time and could not explain why Mr Brown's family had been sent ashes that could not have been their pet's.
This latest shocking story means we must all be on guard when we need to cremate or bury our pets. In these tough times it must be tempting for vets to just take the cheapest quote for emptying their freezers, but they really need to be extra sure of their suppliers.
Sadly, this isn't the only story of this kind I've seen. We reported 18 years ago that a company had been selling on the pets they picked up from vets' freezers - the bodies where being sold for rendering into fat and selling their skins in Europe for clothing. I also remember another case where people had paid for coffins and a burial site. The company went bust and the land was sold on. When already upset owners went to dig up their pets they found their pets had been buried in bin liners despite being charged for expensive wooden caskets.
This case also highlights whether you can ever be really sure that the ashes you sent are indeed from your own dog?
There is a professional organisation that works to improve standards in this industry and we would urge all vets and individuals to either use companies from this list or make exhaustive checks themselves.
Click here for the APPCC website.
Here's a link to the BBC TV version of this story.
The Association of Private Pet Cemeteries & Crematoria have issued the following statement following the discovery of the bodies of 4 dogs in a field in Lower Hartshay, in Derbyshire:
Firstly, we would like to extend out heartfelt sympathies to the families affected by this tragedy. We would like to offer the support of the Association to the bereaved pet owners, not only in terms of pet bereavement counselling, but also in ensuring that the authorities carry out a full and thorough investigation into this matter.
In addition to the discovery of their pet’s body it is both shocking and deeply disturbing to hear that the pet owners concerned did not receive the individual cremation for their beloved dog that they had requested and paid for. We are currently involved in a similar trading standards case elsewhere in the country and this most recent incident highlights that our Association is justified in voicing our concerns about the public being wary of the cremation services offered through some veterinary practices.
The APPCC recently began a campaign to raise awareness of both pet owners and veterinary practices to the misrepresentation of cremation services. This incident is obviously an extreme case but there are a large number of pet crematoria that cut costs by poor working practices in order to obtain business from veterinary surgeries. This means that many more people are being misled over the services they are paying for.
Kevin Spurgeon, Director of the APPCC says “Incidents like this destroy the public’s confidence in the genuine after death care that our members provide. This kind of misrepresentation damages not only the pet crematorium and vet concerned but the reputation of the whole industry. Ideally we would like to see vets doing more research and using a specialist company for pet cremation or burial and a specialist waste company for their disposal work to stop this kind of incident from happening again.”
"We are lucky to have some of the best and most dedicated small specialist pet crematoria in the world in the UK and more vets should try giving their clients a choice of local crematoria and cemeteries should the owner want an individual service. People always remember the way the vet handled the death of their pet so why wouldn’t the vet want to give them the best service possible?"
Pet crematoria are controlled under the Animal By-Product Regulations and Waste Management Licensing or Environmental Permitting. The regulations are designed for waste. This allows any disposal operation to gloss up their services and call themselves by any number of tempting and appealing names. Unfortunately most vets seem to think that all pet crematoria are the same but sadly some of these firms abuse the trust placed in them by the pet owner and give us all a bad name.
The APPCC consists of properly run pet cemeteries & crematoria across the UK that operate to a Code of Practice and can guarantee pet owners a genuine service for their much loved pet. Details of the nearest APPCC member can be found at www.appcc.org.uk or via the nationwide helpline 01252 844478.
Director, Association of Private Pet Cemeteries & Crematoria (APPCC)