Monday, 5 October 2009

Paris pet cemetery

The Cimetière des Chiens is believed to be the first zoological necropolis and the world’s oldest public pet cemetery. It opened in 1899 in Asnières-sur-Seine, a suburb of Paris. It owes its beginnings to a law passed in 1898, when the Paris city authorities declared that dead pets couldn't just be tossed out with the household rubbish or dumped in the Seine, but had to be buried in hygienic graves at least 100 meters from the nearest dwelling.
This elaborate pet cemetery is the burial site for many dogs but also for a wide variety of pets ranging from horses to monkeys to lions and even fish. Over the years 40 000 animals have been buried there.
The cemetery caters to a very elite clientele. Filled with grand and ornate sculptures, at the entry is the monument to Barry, a Saint Bernard mountain rescue dog who died in 1814. The plaque says that during his lifetime, "Barry" was responsible for saving the lives of 40 people lost or trapped in the mountain snow.
Some of the cemetery's residents are famous in their own right such as Rin Tin Tin, the star of a number of Hollywood films, while others are the beloved pets of the wealthy who could afford this elaborate burial place such as film director Sacha Guitry. Buried here too, is the pet lion of stage actress, feminist, and co-founder of the cemetery, Marguerite Durand and the pet of Camille Saint-Saëns, composer of Carnival of the Animals.
The cemetery today is operated by the city of Asnières and in 1987, the government of France classified the cemetery as a historical monument. However, the cemetery has fallen on hard times and no longer draws very many tourists. Its owners have stated that they may have to close it.
One of the Paris tourist guides I browsed through, advises visitors on the opening times in summer and in winter, on the entrance fee of 3€ for adults and 1€ for children over 6. It goes on to say that : “Unless they're dead and buried, dogs must be kept on a short leash.”