Hartsdale Pet Cemetery
75 North Central Park Avenue
Hartsdale, New York 10530
Telephone: (914) 949-2583
Size: under 4 acres
Number of interments: between 80,000 and 100,000
Until the 1890s, people who had a pet die in New York City either buried it in their gardens (if they had one) or in public parks. Out of health considerations, the city banned the burial of animals within its city limits in 1896.
After that, since it was illegal to bury animals in human graveyards, the only option when a pet died was to put the body out with the trash.
In 1896, one of the clients of New York City veterinarian Dr. Samuel K. Johnson was distraught at the thought of discarding their beloved dog that way. Johnson allowed the dog’s burial in his apple orchard. The idea became so popular, that Johnson eventually dedicated three acres of his land as a graveyard.
Johnson invited people to bring their deceased pets to his office on Manhattan’s 25th Street, where they could purchase a zinc-lined casket. Then they would travel 25 miles by train to the quiet village of Hartsdale in Westchester County, where Johnson’s apple orchard was filling with monuments and flower arrangements.
In the early days, pet owners cared for their own cemetery plots, enclosing them with wrought-iron fences and adorning them with sculptures. When they died, moved away, or lost interest, the plots became dilapidated. That led to the incorporation of the cemetery. A full-time caretaker moved into a cottage on the property.
Monuments range from standard headstones to portrait sculptures, stone doghouses and cat baskets, and much more. The oldest surviving monument dates to 1899. It remembers Dotty, fourteen-year-old pet of E. M. Dodge.
Animals buried in Hartsdale Pet Cemetery vary from cats and dogs to horses, monkeys, rabbits, guinea pigs, goldfish, iguanas, snakes,and parakeets. One of the most exotic animals in the cemetery is a lion named Goldfleck. Princess Lwoff Parlaghy was a Hungarian artist who bought the lion cub from Ringling Brothers Circus and took him to live with her at the Plaza Hotel. After his death, he received a wake at the hotel and was buried in Hartsdale in 1912.
During World War I, thousands of dogs were trained to find wounded soldiers. The service dogs were given a monument at Hartsdale: a ten-ton boulder of granite from Barre, Vermont, topped with a bronze statue of a kerchief-wearing dog with a dented helmet at his feet. The cost of the monument was raised by donations. Police, fire, and weapons detection dogs are also buried at the cemetery. Among them are dogs who retrieved bodies after the Oklahoma City Bombing and one who worked in the World Trade Center ruins.
Although the practice of interring humans and animals together is illegal, more that 700 pet owners have chosen to have their ashes interred with their animal companions. Several of them shares gravestones with their pets.
Hartsdale’s website: www.petcem.com
On Atlas Obscura: http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/hartsdale-pet-cemetery
On Quigley’s Cabinent: http://quigleyscabinet.blogspot.com/2012/09/pet-placement.html
My review of the Hartsdale book: https://cemeterytravel.com/2017/04/01/a-guide-to-americas-first-pet-cemetery/
My review of Permanent New Yorkers
Another resource for grieving pet owners: https://cemeterytravel.com/2017/04/03/resource-for-a-grieving-pet-owner/
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