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One of the most famous pet cemeteries in American history makes it clear that what a website for entrepreneurs says about pet cemeteries is true, “You definitely shouldn’t get into this business without a lawyer constantly at your side.”
The Aspin Hill Memorial Park in Maryland (near Washington D.C.) is home to more than 40,000 animals and was once a top tourist attraction in the area -- and that’s saying a lot in the Washington D.C. area. In 2005 there were plans even to build the nation’s Pet Hall of Fame on the site in order to better promote the memories of some of the more famous animals memorialized on the grounds. (Among others, Petey from the Little Rascals and Hubert Humphrey’s beloved dog are buried on the grounds many other pets of well known American politicians are there as well.) This museum would be so elaborate and thorough that it would even include a Medical Rats Memorial, devoted strictly to the thousands of furry rodents who have given their lives so that doctors and scientists can have a better understanding of the physical world.
But all that is on hold thanks to lawsuits which were reportedly settled in 2007 but which still threaten the very existence of this most beloved and cherished of pet cemeteries.
The cemetery, founded in the 1920’s remains largely inactive and its future is still anyone’s guess as weed continue to grow unchecked and once-glorious memorial markers deteriorate, fade, and even fall to the ground.
Here’s the story of the plight of one of the most famous pet cemeteries ever built.
Aspin Hill was built in the 1920s and enjoyed several decades of growth and prosperity until it was purchased in 1988 and donated to the activist group the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. That organization, which has always been divided internally over whether pet ownership is in fact ethical, maintained the property nicely, but did not expand on the cemetery’s growth. Finally, PETA moved its national headquarters from Maryland to Virginia in 1996 and had no reason to continue owning the cemetery. It sold the property to a group that promised to do more than just maintain the property. Plans were to build the Hall of Fame museum, begin marketing the cemeteries services again, and to just restore the vitality and growth that had been such a key part of the cemetery for most of its existence.
Well, the new group quickly came under investigation by Maryland state officials, and the state denied its permits as a non-profit organization. This change in the status of the group affected the sale because, in the cemetery’s deed was a requirement that the property always be run by a non-profit group. So that meant a lawsuit between the original owner, the one who donated the land to PETA and the new owners. In late 2007, the original owner won her case in Maryland Court, but, as of this writing, the two people who were leaders of the group were still living on the land, and it was unclear if they intended to appeal their loss in court.
While the legal battles come to a final close, the property remains largely un-improved, and many people are upset about that. Some volunteers have reportedly made their way onto the property at night to do what they can to tidy-up the cemetery. But, this piece of property is one of the largest cemeteries (pet or otherwise) in the world. So maintenance is not easily done by volunteers -- and at night. The winners of the lawsuit promise that, once the dust is settled, they will restore the cemetery and get back to the promises of growth.
In the meantime, Aston Hills remains neglected. For many across America, that is a very sad thing.
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