The Most Beautiful Pet Cemeteries in the U.S. · The Wildest

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5 of the Most Beautiful Places in the US to Lay Your Pet to Rest

These pet cemeteries are giving animals the memorials they deserve.

by Sean Zucker
April 3, 2024
two dogs by a grave in a pet cemetery
Courtesy of @wag_waggle

No one wants to consider what happens after their pet’s time on this earth comes to an end. Whether cat or dog, they’re truly members of the family, so the thought of them no longer being around can be truly devastating. When that unfortunate moment arrives, the grief can be just as bad as when you lose a human loved one. For some people, it can even feel worse.

“Honestly, sometimes it’s more difficult because the emotional bond that you have with a pet is different than any other relationship that you have in your life. It’s unconditional love,” says Donna Shugart-Bethune, executive director of the International Association of Pet Cemeteries and Crematories (IAOPCC).

Despite this, the options to give pets a proper burial in this country are seriously lacking. Google “pet cemetery” and you’ll have to scroll through several IMBD and Wikipedia pages for Stephen King adaptions before landing on an actual place to lay your dog to rest.

While there are no official stats on operating pet cemeteries in the U.S., Shugart-Bethune estimates that the number is likely somewhere between 700 and 900. This is in comparison to human cemeteries, which are believed to be closer to 140,000 statewide. When you consider the fact that 66 percent of American households currently have pets, less than one percent of cemeteries being dedicated to them is staggering.  

According to Shugart-Bethune, this disparity is, in large part, because there are no federally regulated guidelines for pet cemeteries. This disconnect is at the heart of the IAOPCC, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the ethics and professionalism of pet cemeteries and aftercare, as well as normalizing the pet grieving process.

Not to mention, people aren’t always aware of just how much their pets mean to them until they’re gone. “Sometimes people are surprised to know that their grief is so profound and they don’t take the time to go through that process to honor that pet’s life with some type of memorialization,” Shugart-Bethune adds.

She also notes a shift over the past 20 years in how people perceive pet cremations. Similar to how it’s been treated for humans, this practice has become far more acceptable to the general public, leading many to move away from traditional burials.

Still, there are few options to spread those ashes somewhere you can fully honor your pet. But all hope is not lost. Among this small sample size, there are a handful of pet cemeteries setting the standard for memorializing animal family members. Below are five of the most beautiful pet cemeteries in the U.S. today.

Hartsdale Pet Cemetery

When asked about notable places to lay a pet to rest, Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York is the first that comes to mind for Shugart-Bethune. The grounds represent America’s oldest and largest pet cemetery dating back to 1896. Also known as the “Peaceable Kingdom,” Hartsdale acts as the final resting place for over 80,000 pets, according to its website.

Barely 20 miles north of Manhattan, the cemetery has become a favorite for celebrity pets, as well. One of whom happens to be Mariah Carey’s late cat, Clarence. “The cemetery itself is just absolutely beautiful,” Shugart-Bethune says. She adds that it was even added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2012. The burial grounds have also since been recognized by the Smithsonian Institute and the National Wildlife Federation. 

Hinsdale Pet Cemetery

Founded in 1926, this cemetery has been honoring pets in the Chicago area for almost 100 years. Among its acres of pet tombstones, Hinsdale has over 20,000 animals who have been laid to rest. For those choosing to mourn without the burial process, there is a butterfly garden where pet parents are invited to spread the ashes of their loved animals.

Each spring, the serenity of blossoming wildflowers attracts a swarm of butterflies and acts as a monument to pets past. These varying options are crucial because, regardless of the means, Shugart-Bethune confirms the need for pet parents to fully mourn as they would for any family member. “Honoring the pet’s life is part of the grieving process. The same is true whether it’s pets or humans; the process is the same,” she says.

Aspin Hill Memorial Park

Hovering above Washington, D.C. is Maryland’s Aspin Hill Memorial Park. This graveyard honors the lives of over 50,000 pets and 5,000 humans. Currently owned by its local Montgomery County Humane Society, Aspin Hill has survived thanks to a rotating cast of animal advocacy agencies maintaining it. From 1988 to 1996, it was owned by PETA, and from 1996 to 2007, the Chesapeake Wildlife Sanctuary held it before transferring ownership to the Humane Society.

Beyond its role in preserving the memory of loved family members, Aspin Hill is home to a ton of American history. Many high-profile U.S. figures have laid their pets to rest there over the years. Several of J. Edgar Hoover’s dogs, including his cherished dog Spee De Bozo, can be found at the park, as well as one of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s former canine companions. The grounds are currently listed on the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties and are considered eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

Peaceful Pastures Pet Cemetery

As the newest pet cemetery on this list, Peaceful Pastures seems to also be the most modern. It feels like the first organization to genuinely take pet grief as seriously as human grief. Just like you would want to lower the stress on loved ones come your own passing, Peaceful Pastures offers advanced planning, so burial decisions can be made prior to your pet’s death.

Directly next door, and under the same ownership, is Woodruff Memorial Park for those wanting to forever lay next to their favorite cuddle buddy. Peaceful Pastures also provides grief support to help guide mourners through the emotionally grueling experience.   

Bubbling Well Pet Memorial Park

Another one of Shugart-Bethune’s favorites, Bubbling Well has been offering pets a tranquil final resting place in California’s wine country for over 50 years. “It’s a beautiful cemetery right in the heart of Napa Valley that’s just very lovingly and well taken care of,” she says.

The park was started in 1971 by husband-and-wife team Cal and Scottie Harberts after they recognized a need for pet parents to be able to properly mourn their pets. A few years later, filmmaker Errol Morris filmed the Harberts and those who buried their loved ones in the cemetery for the documentary Gates of Heaven.

Famed film critic Roger Ebert later referred to the doc as one of the 10 greatest movies he’s ever seen, noting in a retroactive 1997 review, “This 85-minute film about pet cemeteries has given me more to think about over the past 20 years than most of the other films I’ve seen.”

The wide landscape of Bubbling Well is a tribute to the enduring love we feel for our pets with sectionalized graveyards representing the uniqueness of every animal. Within its “Garden of Companionship,” there’s a “Gentle Giants” area for larger breeds, “Champions” for the most courageous animals, and “Kitty Kurve” for late felines. There’s also Bubbling Well’s “Foothill Gardens” for smaller pets, among several other specialized sections.

The layout perfectly reflects the truth that no pet is the same and everyone grieves in their own way — and there’s no doubt they all are deserving of memorialization. 

Sean Zucker

Sean Zucker

Sean Zucker is a writer whose work has been featured in Points In Case, The Daily Drunk, Posty, and WellWell. He has an adopted Pit Bull named Banshee whose work has been featured on the kitchen floor and whose behavioral issues rival his own.

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