LaGRANGE — When LaGrange resident Sally Sue Bradley’s 8-pound Yorkshire Terrier died in May, she and her husband did what most people do: they buried it in the backyard.
It wasn’t until a few weeks ago when she was talking to a friend from Columbus that she began to wonder if the practice is even legal — and what people who live in places like apartments or townhouses do when their furry friends pass away.
“Am I the only one in the city of LaGrange that worries about where to bury my pet?” she wondered.
In places like Columbus and Atlanta, special cemeteries have been set aside for the burial of pets, but nothing like that exists in Troup County. It’s legal to bury a family pet in a backyard, as long as certain requirements are met. Under state law, four-legged animals must be buried with at least 3 feet of ground coverage within 24 hours of death. The burial also cannot contaminate ground or surface water.
Still, Bradley is hoping to create a special pet cemetery somewhere in Troup County where people can lay their pets to rest.
“I’d like to know if anyone else is interested in this, and if there are people, then we can go forward with the project,” she told the Daily News.
“If I’m the only one who’s interested, then it dies right there,” she added with a pun possibly intended.
Bradley said she envisions a fenced area of about an acre where people can pay a nominal fee to bury their family pets, complete with a brass placard.
“It needs to be flat land and it can’t have trees on it,” she said. “It’s got to be like pasture land … People might know someone who has some land that they’d would be willing to sell.”
She’s hoping that other people in the community might be interested in the project and would help her get it off the ground — or, rather, in the ground.
“I need to know if anyone would be willing to serve on a board of directors, I envision about five people on the board,” she said. “And I need to know if there are any groups that would help us to put of a fence.”
She said she’s not envisioning the Taj Mahal of pet cemeteries, but something simple that could be easily maintained with civil or church groups who volunteer to cut the grass once or twice a month.
Leigh Threadgill, LaGrange’s city planner, said the project isn’t impossible, but it’s not something the city has ever considered before.
“It’s not covered in the zoning ordinances, it’s not a land use that we’ve contemplated,” she said. “It’s not clear, I should say, that that’s a use that’s covered under any of our existing ordinances.”
As the zoning ordinance stands today, cemeteries are either city properties or are accessories to churches, she said. The city’s zoning ordinances for cemeteries only cover human bodies.
Threadgill also noted there might be challenges related to the location of such a pet cemetery. Factors like ground water and who would be responsible for the maintenance are all challenges.
Bradley isn’t detered. She’s hoping others in the community who like the idea will come forward and help her get the project started. Anyone interested should contact her via email at [email protected]
Tyler H. Jones is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2155.