Pet cemetery lease expires so what happens to the animals’ remains?

This is a terrible failure in management by the leaseholders of a pet cemetery in the state of Michigan, US. The Heavenly Acres pet cemetery in Genoa Township has closed because the lease on the land has expired.

Lease has expired on pet cemetery so what happens to the animals?
Photo: Gillis Benedict-MBR, AP. On the right: Waterford resident Diane Rousseau.
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

Note: This is an opinion piece based upon an article of news published on the sfgate.com website. I’m not simply reciting the news, I am commenting upon it and my thoughts are my own.


We are told that there could be 74,000 animal remains buried on the 12 acre site. It has been in operation for 40 years.

There is real concern by cat owners as to what will happen to their deceased cats. This is entirely understandable.

For example, Diane Rousseau has five cats buried at the cemetery and she’s worried that the property will be developed in some way (repurposed) and that she won’t have access to the remains of her beloved, deceased cats.

“I’m devastated and worried my pets are going to be bulldozed”.

Linda Williams owns the company that ran the cemetery. It’s called First Pet Care Services. She declined to speak to The Livingston Daily Press and Argus who investigated the matter.

The key failure in the management of the cemetery is that the company which managed the cemetery held the land on a lease rather than buying the freehold.

Must be freehold land tenure

It must be an absolute requirement that the owners of a pet cemetery are freeholders of the land on which the cemetery is established. Only in that way can it hold the land indefinitely which must be a fundamental requirement for this sort of business.

It is wholly unacceptable that a company providing the service of a pet cemetery are unable to guarantee that the deceased animals will be left undisturbed indefinitely. In this case there was always a possibility in the background that the lease would expire and not be renewed. I suppose clients never discussed the matter with the cemetery owners because clients would have presumed that their deceased cats would be left undisturbed in perpetuity.

Exhumation?

Rousseau is considering exhuming her pets because she sees it as the only viable option to ensure that the remains of her cats are not violated. She’s been told that she can’t do it because that would be trespassing.

It would be unlikely that a new leaseholder would get permission to repurpose the site, we are told. But, I understand that it could be used as farmland without notifying officials.

The situation is unacceptable and when you think that there might be 74,000 deceased animals at the cemetery, this equates to a large number of clients who will no doubt be distressed.

Freeholder should protect the remains

I would have thought, and hope, that Linda Williams will take steps to protect the remains of the deceased animals and that the landlord i.e. the freeholder of the land, would allow clients to either exhume their pets or ensure that the remains are undisturbed.

2 thoughts on “Pet cemetery lease expires so what happens to the animals’ remains?”

  1. I would really find out if they could legally stop me from removing my pet’s remains under the circumstances. This is a good learning experience for pet parents to ask questions before buying a burial place, perhaps it is safer to cremate pets as the remains can never be taken from you or destroyed. It also seems very cruel that they would not allow people the choice to remove the remains in this case.

    Reply
    • I agree with you on all fronts. This has gone badly wrong. A totally misconceived business model. Burying does carry problems. I buried my first and beloved cat in the garden of my then home. When I moved I exhumed her and cremated her remains and they are with today in the living room.

      Reply

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