Lifestyle & Human Interest

Families Forced To Dig Up Graves of Beloved Pets or Say Goodbye Forever After Cemetery Loses Lease


Linda Blair Williams first started her venture into the realm of pet burials and cremation in 1976.

“Linda arrived in Howell, Michigan in the summer of 1973 with five Russian Wolfhounds, her then-husband, $5 of remaining travel funds, and no intention of opening a pet cremations business,” the About page on her Heavenly Acres Pet Cremation website reads. “She and her husband started working for Bright Spot Kennels, then went on to purchase the property in the future.”

“After years of owning and operating the kennels, Linda went on to install two crematories within two years. She briefly stepped away from the business in 2000 but returned to take over the business in 2008. She’s been with the company since, sharing her passion for animals and helping loved ones cope with loss.”

The Facebook page for her business states that they are “compassionate and caring pet owners” and “hope that you will feel comfortable with our assistance.”

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Reading the page reviews, you see glowing review after glowing review, of how kindly pet owners were treated and how respectfully they believe their departed pets were handled.

But there’s been an interruption to that tranquility, and it has to do with a nearby cemetery by the name of Heavenly Acres Pet Cemetery, also run by Linda Williams, according to Livingston Daily.

The 12-acre cemetery has been operated for 40 years and contains an estimated 74,000 pets. Many owners of pets buried there assumed it would continue to operate for decades to come — but there was one major problem.

The land the cemetery was on wasn’t owned by Williams, it was leased. And that lease expired on September 30, 2018.

Pet owners were informed of this horrible twist and given an even more terrible choice: Schedule a 3-4 hour time to dig up their pets on one of nine available dates before September 7, 2019, or say goodbye to their buried pets forever. Only one trip is allowed, and no trespassing is permissible outside of the scheduled exhumation time slot.

Williams’ attorney, David Johnson, maintains that what has happened is not illegal, despite many people saying they had no idea the cemetery land wasn’t owned by Williams.

“No laws were broken by selling the plots,” the attorney claimed, according to Livingston Daily. “(Clients) were informed and understood the cemetery would be maintained until it was closed. The hope would have been that it would continue on well into the future. My client would like to do that, but has had no success in doing so.”

Explanation or no, people were understandably outraged.

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Staci Hayman and her husband Matthew Wiseman have laid multiple pets to rest at Heavenly Acres over the decades.

“It was out in the country, a beautiful place,” Hayman said, according to WOFL. The couple’s most recent loss was a cat named Bailey, and the ceremony and burial cost them $800 — and at the time, it had all been worth it.

“They put her in a casket, they had a beautiful room we got to say goodbye. Then they transported her out to the cemetery. It was just like burying a human being.

“We used to visit her grave once or twice a year, clean it up and have a nice little visit.

“We all paid for perpetual care and perpetual care to me, means forever,” she said.”You [FOX 2] were out there today and saw that the grounds are deplorable.”

The unkempt state of the cemetery is only one difficulty pet owners are facing: another is that there are no longer any maps available for those trying to find their pets, resulting in hours of fruitless search and heartbreak — especially disappointing when owners are only allowed a single visit for retrieval.

Despite the outcry of affected owners and the threat of lawsuits, the lawyer representing the owners of the property has been firm in her demands. Brighton attorney Shari Pollesch, an attorney for Carol Street Park Ridge, the owners of the property, has made it clear that even allowing people to remove their pets was an act of kindness.

“There will be no exceptions made to the terms of the exhumation activities,” the letter she wrote to the pet owners stated. “There will be no alternative dates offered.”

As the next few months play out, the fate of all these buried animals will become clear. If there’s anything to take away from this harrowing tale, it’s this: if you plan on burying your furry friend at a pet cemetery, make sure the property isn’t leased.

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