There is growing concern in Rhode Island over a veterans’ cemetery serving as a dog park. The complaints content the use of the cemetery by dog owners is disrespectful to the fallen veterans. The issue has produced a battle with pet owners over access to the property.
In many other states there is a ban on pets within the cemetery grounds as a sign of respect towards fallen veterans. Rhode Island has no law prohibiting pet owners from using the grounds.
Over the past year the 265-acre property in Exeter has received complaints about dogs and the disruption they have been causing. One report alleges that a dog had knocked down a child while the family was paying respect at the cemetery.
According to an Associated Press story, Frank Rosebrock, the head of the Veterans Foreign Wars Department in Rhode Island, commented on the issue of dogs walking amongst the veterans’ stones relieving themselves by stating, “ I can’t believe it…it is disgusting.”
Due to the complaints, Democratic Rep. Jan Malik introduced a bill to prohibit pets, excluding service animals, from the Rhode Island Veterans Memorial Cemetery.
Some states to restrict access to pets at veterans’ cemeteries. It is up to the individual states to define those restrictions. For instance, New England and New Hampshire allow leashed pets into their veterans’ cemeteries while Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, and Maine have provisions for service animals only.
There have been other attempts to address the dog issue in the past. In 2014 and 2015, a bill was proposed to ban pets, excluding service animals, from the cemetery. The bill fell short due to concerns over how to enforce the ban.