Just last month, the world's oldest pet cemetery, the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery and Crematory, honored our nation's service dogs at its annual War Dog Memorial ceremony. Founded in 1896, The Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York, is possibly the world's best known pet cemetery. The cemetery was founded after Samuel Johnson, a veterinarian, wanted to bury a client's dog, and offered up space in his apple orchard to do so. Once word got out about this one act of kindness, people throughout New York began requesting that their pets also be buried on Dr. Johnson's land, and thus, the country's first cemetery for companion animals was created. Today, the cemetery houses 75,000 companion animal graves.
What makes the founding of Hartsdale so notable is that prior to that time, animals had no formal place to be laid to rest. No matter how loved individual animals were, our society had not yet come up with a way to honor and memorialize them when they died. Dead animals, whether livestock or working animal or pet, were often treated like garbage and thrown away with the rest of a city's refuse. With the rise of the pet cemetery industry, not only did people have a way to deal with the bodies of their dead companions (a problem for urban residents who could not simply bury a dog in their back yard), but they had a way to permanently memorialize them as well.