Hartsdale, NY (WIBX) - A burial ground is not often the site of much celebration but this week a New York pet cemetery will serve as the backdrop for a family celebration.

NatalieMaynor, Flickr
NatalieMaynor, Flickr

The family includes not only the small group that owns and operates The Hartsdale Pet Cemetery and Crematory, but many of its patrons as well.  They will be joined on October 6, 2012 by cemetery staff, local legislators, and a growing number of community members who want to take acknowledge a special recognition being accorded to what was once a family apple orchard.

Hartsdale is now officially recognized as a "nationally significant landmark of the American humane movement" and "the first planned rural pet cemetery for pets in the United States and...the oldest continuously operated burial ground for animals in the Western world."  It is considered most significant because, prior to its inception, pets were often disposed of as trash.

The cemetery was founded in 1896 by Dr. Samuel Johnson, a professor of veterinary surgery at New York University and the first official veterinarian of the State of New York.  He unknowingly laid the foundation for the enterprise when he offered a portion of his apple orchard to a Manhattan client whose dog had died.  The woman wanted to give her beloved pet a proper burial but did not want to violate New York City's health laws.  It was not long after Dr. Johnson allowed her to bury the dog on his land that others soon requested permission to do the same.  The Hartsdale Canine Cemetery and Crematory, later including many other types of animals, thus came to be.  Dogs, cats, monkeys, iguanas, and even a lion are said to be buried at the site.

The President of the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery is Edward Martin, Jr.  He is also the author of Dr. Johnson's Apple Orchard: The Story of America's First Pet Cemetery.  Mr. Martin says they were notified about the designation on August 17, 2012 and he is touched by the attention that the site is now receiving.

Dogs, cats, monkeys, iguanas, and even a lion are said to be buried at the site.  There are also about seven hundred human pet owners who are buried there as well, although Martin says it is not something they advertise.

For a list of celebrities who have buried their pets at Hartsdale click here.

Martin's parents, as well as his wife's mom and dad, are buried at Hartsdale as well.  When asked if he will join them in their final resting place when the time comes, Martin says that he and his wife both plan to join their parents.

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation announced its official recommendation of the site for historic preservation in June of this year.  There are currently almost 2,700 cemeteries that sit on the National Register of Historic Places, but Hartsdale is the only pet cemetery among them.

The site is also home of the War Dog Memorial, where a service is held every year to honor service dogs who have worked in military, police, fire, and civil capacities in service to the nation.

The cemetery is still very much in operation and is located at 75 North Central Park Avenue in Hartsdale, New York 10530.  It is about thirty miles from New York City and about 230 miles from the Utica/Rome area. Visitors can get more information by visiting their website at petcem.com or by  calling: (914) 949.2583.

Hartsdale's owners are reportedly hopeful that the new designation will enable them to apply for grants to do repairs on the property.

Photos below are courtesy of Ed Martin, Jr. and Ed Martin, III of the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery and Crematory:


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