According to Rhode Island veterans, a state memorial cemetery is literally going to the dogs.
Most state-run cemeteries bar pets out of respect, but Rhode Island Veterans Memorial Cemetery has never prohibited locals from unleashing their dogs on the large property. Local pet owners have long used the 265-acre property as a pseudo-dog park, visiting fallen loved ones while giving their beloved pets an opportunity to prance freely across the grass.
But since 2014, veterans have sought to ban pets from the cemetery. In the past year alone, six complaints have been lodged by veterans to the state government claiming that unleashed pets are defiling graves and knocking over children.
Frank Rosebrock, the head of the Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter in Rhode Island, said that he has seen dogs relieve themselves amongst the headstones.
“I can’t believe it,” he said. “It is disgusting.”
A bill seeking to stop pets from roaming the graveyard were drafted in 2014 and 2015, and the newest version of the law was introduced on Feb. 2. If passed, the policy would ban all pets from Rhode Island veterans cemeteries except for service animals. People who violate the ban and bring their dogs, leashed or unleashed, to the property would receive a hefty fine.
However, locals like Rebecca Allen believe the supporters of this bill are barking up the wrong tree. Allen often brings her 10 year-old puggle Artie to the cemetery, but she takes care to make sure her dog doesn’t actually walk over to the headstones She doesn’t believe it’s fair to punish responsible dog owners with a blanket ban.
“People come here to mourn. I understand that,” Allen said. “But why shouldn’t someone be able to bring their dog?”