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Families Buried Their Animals In a Cemetery. Now They’re Being Asked to Dig Them Up.

Saying goodbye to our furry friends is a devastating but inevitable part of life. The most we can do for our departed good boys and girls is to send them off properly with love and care. That’s why so many people choose to have their animals buried in a cemetery. We want to be able to visit and remember them when they’re gone.

Families living near Livingston County in Michigan thought they were honoring their beloved fur babies by burying them in Heavenly Acres Pet Cemetery. In fact, according to Fox 35 around 74,000 animals have been buried in that cemetery.

Posted by Bossier Parish Sheriff's Office on Friday, September 22, 2017

Heavenly Acres had been burying animals on their 12-acre site since the late 1970s. They also sold caskets, markers, flowers, and funeral services to families. Mourners spent hundreds of dollars on burial services for their animals. Heavenly Acres also charged the grieving dog and cat parents fees for “pre-need” planning and “perpetual care and maintenance” of the sites.

Perpetual turned out to not be so perpetual.

Unexpectedly, families with animals buried in the cemetery received a letter from the lawyer of Carol Street Park Ridge LLC, an Illinois-based company. The letter informed them that they had until the end of Heavenly Acres’ lease in September, 30 days from then, to exhume their loved ones’ remains. After that deadline, they would be considered in trespass.

 

Naturally, the families of the animals buried at Heavenly Acres were shocked by this news. They had been led to believe by the operator that the cemetery was part of a protected land deed. They had no idea it was on a lease from Carol Street Park Ridge LLC, one which had expired.

Knowing this, however, the operator Linda Williams continued to sell plots until the end of September 2018 and collect fees through November 2018. She then defaulted on her lease and received notice to quit.

Kim Goldstein from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan told The Detroit News that she has four dogs in the cemetery, buried between 2001 and 2011.

“I am devastated at what is happening. I watched them buried in their coffins with blankets, pictures and a ton of love around them. It was so very hard to do but I had to because I loved and still love them forever. Who could ask anyone to exhume their pets or possibly have their gravesites bulldozed? It blows my mind.”

Sandy Reed from Howell, Michigan is the heartbroken parent of a Shetland Sheepdog, Shawn, who was buried at Heavenly Acres 32 years ago.

“I have not missed a year since his burial in visiting, cleaning up branches and leaves and putting fresh flowers on his grave. I was told he would receive perpetual care and would like his grave to remain undisturbed.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bp79CzygXrU/

Though Linda Williams was not able to be reached for comment, Heavenly Acres appears to still be operating as a cremation service in Livingston County. They have since released a statement, explaining that they are a separate entity than the one that previously managed the cemetery. Heavenly Acres Pet Cremation Services have posted a petition, hoping to keep the land as a cemetery and stop the order to have the pets exhumed.

More than 74,000 beloved pets have been laid to rest on this property. Like many of you, we have buried our own companions in the cemetery. Closing the cemetery is not something we stand with, and this act does not accurately reflect our passions and beliefs at Heavenly Acres. The property holds a special place in our heart for many reasons, and we’re going to continue doing everything in our power to ensure the future of the cemetery.”

One woman commenting on Yelp under the name Lois R who had buried her dog there described how the cemetery closure has affected her.

“It has not been taken care of; we are not allowed to visit our pets, but have been given a few days during which we may exhume them.  This has been a nightmare; we cannot find people to exhume, some people cannot even locate their pets’ graves cause of how overgrown the property is.” – Lois R, Yelp

Shari L. Pollesch, the attorney who mailed out the letter to people with animals buried at Heavenly Acres released a statement about the state of the site provided to her by her client, site owner Carol Street Park Ridge LLC.

“Carol Street intends to market the property for sale with the hope of a sale to persons or entities willing to continue to maintain the pet cemetery. However, the future use of the property will ultimately be determined by the new owner,” the statement said.

No pet owner should have to go through this!! I buried my pets at her Heavenly Acres Pet Cemetery as their final resting…

Posted by Jane Kiefer Hatswell on Monday, August 19, 2019

This means that it’s possible the cemetery is bulldozed to make room for new developments. It’s all up to the site owners.

Aside from being indecent, disturbing a cemetery is just a horror movie waiting to happen.

Outraged animal parents and cemetery clients filed a lawsuit, aiming to acquire a temporary restraining order against any reuse of the Heavenly Acres Pet Cemetery property. The lawsuit also sought dollar damages for the affected families and a ruling that the site remain an animal cemetery because many of the animals have been there more than 15 years and had established legal occupancy. 

After the lawsuit was filed, a County Circuit Court Judge did grant a temporary restraining order to prevent the sale of the land. Judge David Reader issued an order that prevents the property owners from both selling the land and also disturbing the cemetery and remains.

If the owners go against the judge’s order, it’s pretty clear who’s going to be haunted.

H/T Fox 35, The Detroit News

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Written by Michelle Spies
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