Is It OK To Walk My Dog In A Cemetery?

It's Halloween season, which means haunts, scares, and a few ghosts. It's also a time of year where we all become interested in the dead and the places that the dead hang out — cemeteries. But we're not the only ones in the cemetery. And no, we're not talking about ghosts, although they are there, too. We're talking about dogs. Because if you pay attention, you'll notice that tons of people walk their dogs in, near, or around cemeteries. And even more people have opinions about it.

Spooky night at cemetery
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So, since this is the spooky time of year, we decided to tackle this spooky question about dogs in graveyards.

Should we walk our dogs in a cemetery — yes or no?

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Like most online debates, the opinions tend to be on both sides, and much fiercer than we might think.

Some argue that it just isn't respectful to walk your dog in the cemetery.

Because cemeteries are solemn places where people often go to visit their deceased family members, many people argue that dogs can only disrupt that.

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At the Mountain View Cemetery in the Bay Area of California, the community has been upset by dog walkers on the grounds. One resident told the East Bay Times that letting dogs on the grounds isn't okay. He said, "It's resulted in activities that are outrageous and painful to those of us who have family members interred. I'm re-thinking my plans to buy there and be with my family. Do I want to be in a place where dogs are going to be pooping all over me?"

dog near grave
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And online, dog lovers engage in a fierce debate against dog owners who said they walk their dogs in cemeteries. One GermanSheperd.com user, Bethl, explained, "As a mom to 3 human deceased children and both parents, I get SUPER upset when I see dogs running loose through grave yards. Walking on a leash on the paths/roads - still a bit unsettling. Why? If dog has to "go" no one stops them from doing so on the edges of the paths/roads/driveways, which often times are still pretty darn close to grave sites."

Another user, DoggieDad argued, "how are you being respectful of gravesites if your dog is going to the bathroom there?"

Clearly, the major themes are concerns that pets will do their business on the dead, and that seems like a pretty reasonable worry. Also, there's the disrespect factor. What if a dog barks or otherwise interrupts while someone is trying to pay their respects? We can see how keeping dogs out of cemeteries might be the best solution.

Memorial Day Is Commemorated At Arlington National Cemetery
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And the Army agrees with them. Although pets were allowed in Arlington Cemetery in Washington, D.C., last year, the army changed those policies. Citing the fact that they've decided dogs "impact the decorum" of funeral services and ceremonies at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, now only service dogs and military dogs are allowed on the premises.

In a statement, the Army explained, "This policy has been deemed necessary to alleviate these impacts and continue to provide the type of respectful and contemplative space that Arlington National Cemetery strives to be."

However, other users believe that as long as dogs are respectful, they have the same rights to visit a cemetery as anyone else.

German shepherd dog near the grave of the owner
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User JD96 in GermanShepherds.com argued, "We take the family dog with us to the cemetery. Why??? Because the dog is just as much a part of the family as anyone else. And perhaps the deceased was very close with the animal. You don't know this persons story..." And DingoMutt on MetaFilter.com explained why a dog might actually be a comforting sight. "I would be comforted by the presence of a dog if I were at a loved one's funeral, even if it were just a dog going on a walk with her person."

And that makes sense, too. If a dog is visiting a loved one or comforting their owner who is, why shouldn't they be allowed to be a part of the mourning process? Plus, in cities or areas where there aren't nice, quiet parks, cemeteries tend to be well, kept, peaceful places to take a stroll.

Memorial Day
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And plenty of cemeteries agree and actually welcome dogs. In fact, the Cemetery of Congress, one of the oldest and most famous cemeteries in the country, not only allows dogs but has an exclusive club for dogs.

The Cemetery Dogs is a members-only group of dogs known as the K9 Corps that are allowed to walk off-leash and enjoy the cemetery. Of course, they still require dogs and owners to be respectful, but they also appreciate that a cemetery can be a great place for dogs to enjoy. Plus, the membership costs help maintain the cemetery, and many dog owners make up the volunteers that tend to the cemetery as well.

So what's the answer? Of course, there is no easy answer.

But it's very clear that if you do want to bring your dogs to the cemetery, respect is of the utmost importance. Both you and your pets need to be able to maintain the peaceful atmosphere. And we can't believe we have to say this, but no pooping on graves! However, for those vehemently opposed to dogs in the cemeteries, consider that many people enjoy bringing their dogs to the cemetery. And many feel comforted by it. And dogs aren't the only ones who can be disrespectful in graveyards — humans can, too!

But it's pretty clear that this debate isn't one that's going to be dead and buried for a while!