(CN) – How would you feel if you buried your pet in a cemetery and later got a letter saying they’re being dug up or left beneath a new parking lot?
A number of North Carolinians whose beloved animals were buried at Walden Pond Pet Cemetery claim they got that letter in April.
A group of pet owners sued Ricky Coates, Mendenhall Court LLC, Gary Wells and Kathy Wells in New Hanover County, N.C. court on May 5. The plaintiffs seek an order declaring that they have an easement over the pet cemetery and a right to visit their pets buried there as well as $25,000 in damages.
The Wellses and Mendenhall Court bought the pet cemetery from its previous owners in October 2013, according to the complaint. They then sold the cemetery property to Coates last month.
“On or about April 9, 2015, the defendant Coates sent letters to pet burial lot owners, including plaintiffs, informing them of his intent to develop the pet cemetery,” the complaint states. “In the letter, the defendant Coates advises lot owners that they have a period of ninety (90) days in which to disinter their pets, after which, upon information and belief, Coates intends to disinter all of the pets from their graves and/or simply pave over these graves in order to turn the pet cemetery into a parking lot.”
Coates has already removed landscaping and drained a pond at the cemetery, according to the lawsuit.
The pet owners say they never would have buried their pets at Walden Pond had they known of the possibility that the property would be developed or turned into a parking lot. They sued for breach of contract, declaratory judgment and injunctive relief. The pet owners are represented by Kyle Nutt of Shipman & Wright in Wilmington, N.C.
Courthouse News spoke to pet owners in Middle Tennessee about the lawsuit. One, Rachel Sparkman, said she disagrees with Coates’ alleged decision to develop the pet cemetery but is not surprised.
“I don’t think it’s right for the pet cemetery to just pave over the graves of pets that were bought and paid for. I would be mad. Developers don’t usually care about feelings, though,” she said. “As long as there’s a profit involved for them it could be people or pets and they’d still do it. It’s just not right.”
Sparkman, 23, owns two guinea pigs. She said she would rather bury her pets on family-owned property than trust a pet cemetery.
Cat owner Brooke Long said, if she had to choose, she’d rather have a pet be buried underneath a parking lot than be dug up in a decayed state, which she said could be traumatizing.
“In my opinion that is just so wrong,” Long, 25, said. “I would be deeply disturbed by the possibility of my dead pet being dug up. I can’t even imagine what I would do with an already decayed, rotted animal corpse. That’s just gross. I wouldn’t dig Luci up.”
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