Apple orchard that became New York's famous Hartsdale Pet Cemetery

Apple orchard that became New York's famous Hartsdale Pet Cemetery

We have previously written about the large public pet cemetery in Paris called Cimetiere du Chiens.

Today we thought we'd look at the remarkable story behind an even larger final resting place for pets in America.

The Hartsdale Pet Cemetery and Crematory is described as "America's First and Most Prestigious Pet Burial Grounds" - yet it came into existence almost by accident.

In the 1890s when pets died their bodies were disposed of as waste. It wasn't through a lack of respect or caring...it was just what happened and no-one had really considered an alternative. It was illegal to bury animals in human cemeteries or public spaces.

In 1896, a woman whose dog had just died was horrified and upset when she spoke to Manhattan vet Dr Samuel Johnson and discovered that she could not have a final resting place for body of her beloved companion in the city of New York.

Dr Johnson felt so sorry for her that he told her he had a large apple orchard at his home in Hartsdale, some 25 miles north of the city. He said she could bury her dog there if she wished.

Dr Johnson, it should also be said, was an animal welfare pioneer who played a key role in founding the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

That might have been the end of it, but a while later Dr Johnson was having lunch with a friend who was a reporter and he mentioned in passing the story of the woman's plight and her dog's burial in his orchard. The story appeared in print and Dr Johnson began to receive letters from other owners keen to have their pets buried in the orchard as well.

In September 1905 the New York Times wrote about the cemetery which by that time had stretched to three acres and now contained the final resting places of scores of pets.

Although it was then called the Hartsdale Canine Cemetery, cats and other pets came to be buried there including monkeys, horses and a lion cub.

In 1914 the cemetery - now the burial place of 1,000 pets - was 'incorporated' meaning that its future was secure and the land would remain a pet cemetery forever. The cemetery was expanded, new footpaths were made and a full-time caretaker was engaged.

Today it is the final home of more than 70,000 animals.

Some 700 or more pet funerals are still carried out there each year. Burials and cremations are both offered.

Hartsdale is also home to an impressive War Dog Memorial put up in 1923 to honour the thousands of dogs who died during the First World War. It was refurbished in 2005. It has become a focus point for service to honour other dogs who have given service through search and rescue and assisting the police.

Sirius, who died during the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York's World Trade Centre, rests at Hartsdale.

Dancer and animal lover Irene Castle, who formed the Orphans of the Storm Animal Shelter in Deerfield, near Chicago, chose Hartsdale as the burial place for many of her pets including a monkey called Rastas and a dog called Zowie.

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