Midstate pet cemetery making changes: ‘We don’t want them to remove the stones’


SWATARA TOWNSHIP, Pa. (WHTM) — Charles and Linda Stauffer are animal lovers and they consider their pets part of the family. When their pets died they honored their memory by burying them at the Humane Society of Harrisburg Area pet cemetery in Swatara Township, Dauphin County.

“We buried them in a cemetery so we would know where they are. We want to come out here and visit and bring flowers,” Linda said.

The Stauffers say they visit the cemetery often. They spent more than $3,100 on grave markers, caskets, and the plots, so when they heard changes were happening at the cemetery they became concerned.

“They removed all of the stones that were {in the older section}. The stones dated back to at least the 1940s,” Linda said.

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The Stauffers are concerned their pet’s grave markers will also be removed. They have three flat headstones for their cats and one upright stone for Linda’s dog.

“We don’t want them to remove the stones. We want to know where our pets are,” Charles said. “We are not happy with it.”

The Humane Society declined to comment. It did show the abc27 Investigators letters it said have been sent out to people whose plots are affected by a rolling project at the cemetery.

The letters said sinkholes throughout the cemetery are causing a safety hazard and in order to address the issue grave markers are being permanently removed, but burial plots will not be disturbed. The letters also said there were plans for a memorial wall to honor the pets.

It is not the answer the Stauffers were hoping for, but they said they did get some news from the Humane Society.

“They are telling us where our stones are will not be {affected} until 2022,” Charles said.

According to the Stauffers, the Humane Society also said it is willing to work with them if it can.

“They did offer to possibly keep our cat stones,” Linda said.

It is not clear if the upright stone for Linda’s dog will have to be removed.

Are Pet Cemeteries Regulated?

According to a spokesperson with The Department of Agriculture, it regulates the disposal of domestic animals and sets guidelines for burial sites, but it does not have oversight over pet cemeteries.

The Pennsylvania Department of State regulates conventional cemeteries, but it did not know of one overall regulating agency for pet cemeteries.

It comes down to the local municipality and if it has any codes or regulations for pet cemeteries. The Humane Society is in Swatara Township. According to the Director of the Building & Codes Department, the property is located in the limited manufacturing district and does not require a permit to fill sinkholes. It would be considered part of regular property maintenance work.

According to the township, there is no local code or ordinance that would prohibit building on top of the cemetery if the property was sold in the future.

If you purchase a plot in a pet cemetery ask if there is a contract that lays out the terms and conditions of the cemetery.

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