NJ pet cemetery may soon close due to hardship

WEST BERLIN, N.J. - August 15, 2012

It is another case of the bad economy. The owner of the Pet Lawn Memorial Cemetery can't pay her taxes, so she has to put it up for sale.

The problem is there are not too many people looking to buy a pet cemetery, so the resting place of many beloved pets is very much in limbo.

Since the 1950's, over 16,000 pets have been buried at the Pet Lawn Memorial Park off Route 73 in West Berlin.

Even one of 6abc's beloved personalities, Sally Star, has pets buried there, and there is a section for police dogs that have protected and served.

Mostly cats and dogs with names like Princess and China Lai call this their final resting place, but there are also horses, raccoons, lizards and more.

"The families know where they are and they are safe, and that's what this place is all about," said Jill Weilenbeck.

But the place where the small furry friends of many families are buried, has fallen on hard times.

The owner says she's lucky if she gets one or two burials a month, and many people have stopped paying their $50 a year maintenance fees that helps maintain the grounds. Those fees also help pay the $25,000 a year in property taxes.

"I told those people to pay what they can. I didn't want them going without. I know what it's like to struggle," said Jill.

With Jill Weilenbeck's house is now in foreclosure. She has been forced to sell the 6 acre property for just under $600,000. She has also tried to sell the front 1 acre along Route 73 separate, but is having no luck.

"I'm willing to come down. I'm willing to discuss any offers. I want this place to be taking care of," she said.

Weilenbeck previously owned the West Jersey Animal Shelter in Pennsauken that also had to be closed down due lack of funds, and for what the SPCA called unsanitary and crowded conditions.

She is worried about what may become of one of New Jersey's oldest pet cemeteries if she doesn't get help soon, and what it will mean to her legacy as a life-long pet lover.

"That I let everyone down, and I don't want to do that, but I'm trying; I'm still trying," she said.

For many, the family pet is one of the most important parts of their lives, and many beloved pets are sadly missed.

But the greater tragedy may be losing the Pet Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery where many of them are buried.

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