Harwich pet cemetery provides service while raising revenue

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MMA Innovation Award winner, From The Beacon, February 2018
 
Harwich is creating the first pet cemetery operated on municipal land. The burial grounds have space for approximately 12,000 plots and the town charges a fee for each plot.
 
In 2016, Town Meeting granted the Cemetery Commission use of a 2.5-acre parcel of town-owned land to establish the pet burial grounds, which will be for cremated animals. The commission sells the lots just like cemetery lots, allowing people to pay in advance for selected locations.
 
Harwich Cemetery Administrator Robbin Kelley said that the town is targeting a $100 fee per lot for Harwich residents and $150 fee for non-residents.
 
The town has awarded a contract for concrete pathways that will be laid out once the weather gets warmer, with plans for a ribbon cutting toward the end of April. In the meantime, other organizations have expressed interest in pitching in for the project.
 
“The canine officers of Cape Cod are very interested in doing a pet memorial there,” Kelley said. “Our Garden Club wants to help out with planting gardens. … And we have veterinarians requesting to donate benches. It seems like we’re really not spending much money and we’re getting a lot of support locally.”
 
Kelley said she was hearing from owners of municipal cemetery lots asking whether their pets could be buried there as well. That practice is currently illegal in Massachusetts, so Kelley settled on the idea of a separate, municipally owned and operated pet cemetery.
 
“As soon as we open, we have about 15 people who have already called and said they would like to purchase a lot,” Kelley said.
 
Harwich Town Administrator Christopher Clark said he applauded Kelley’s efforts to identify the need in the community, find the town-owned parcel where such a facility could be located, and move the project forward.
 
“This is where government works best, when we understand what the need of the community is … and then we have the ability to address it,” Clark said.