Shoals residents upset over pet cemetery

By Josh Ault  bio|e-mail

FLORENCE, AL (WAFF)  Some residents in the Shoals are outraged by what is happening to a local pet cemetery.  There are plans to cover it up with dirt.

The pet cemetery used to be called Pet Haven.  It has been in existence since the 1970's.  A new owner just bought the land and does not want a pet cemetery on his property.

More than 250 dogs and cats are buried in the pet cemetery on Hough Road in Florence.  Small granite markers tell the names and dates of when these beloved pets lived.

When the news broke that this cemetery was going to be covered by dirt, residents were livid.

"This was supposed to be a place of peace," said Tyler Oliver, a Green Hill resident. "Where people could lay their pets."

Oliver's friend, Shelby Mitchell, buried two Chihuahuas there.  He came to help her exhume her dogs.

"Snowball and Butterball," said Mitchell. "They were special, real special.  They went everywhere we did."

Mitchell was not the only pet owner out Thursday moving their deceased pets. What made the day even more difficult was that some of the pets remains could not be located.

"There's nothing there," said Mitchell, as she looked in the grave of Butterball.

Mitchell was unable to find any remains of her two dogs. She was not alone. Steven South of Florence came to find his cat Gracie.

"We came out to dig her up," said South. "We found a few bones.  No box, nothing."

All the pets were supposed to be buried in a nice wooden box by the former land owner.

The current land owner, Phil Baggett, released a statement to WAFF 48, saying: "I have explained our intentions to improve the property I recently acquired to individuals that have informed me that they have a pet buried on the property.  It is my understanding that when a former property owner allowed them to bury their pets, the pet owners did not receive any property rights.  The pet owners I have spoken with concerning this have acknowledged that they had no property rights.  The former owner is deceased and hasn't owned the property for several years.  I recently purchased the property from a subsequent owner.

"The property has been overgrown and has not been maintained for many years and my contractor has begun to clean it up.  I have tried to accommodate the known pet owners and have allowed them access to the property to remove the remains, if they so desired.  I have delayed finishing the improvements until Monday, based on their request.  Many of the pet owners I have spoken with have also asked that any remaining markers be collected and made available, and I have agreed to do so.  Every effort has been made to be understanding and respectful.  I trust the improvements to the property and its future maintenance will be received positively."

The previous land owner, who started the cemetery, died a few years ago.

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