Pet cemetery closes, forcing thousands to dig up remains

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For the thousands of families that chose Heavenly Acres Pet Cemetery, they thought their pets would have a final resting place forever. But, it turns out the land was leased, and that lease is now up.

Families are now being forced to either walk away from the remains - or dig them up.

"It was out in the country, a beautiful place," said Staci Hayman. Heavenly Acres in Livingston County is where she and her husband Matthew Wiseman buried pets for decades. The most recent was Bailey, a 21-year-old cat who was more like a family member. 

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

They put their trust in Linda Williams, who ran the cemetery for years, burying about 74,000 animals on the property thousands were family pets. 

It cost Staci $800 for burial.  

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

Last November, Williams lost the lease to the property. Clients say they never knew the land was leased and not protected by a land deed.

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

The pet's remains were in limbo until this month when a letter came, giving them a final opportunity to exhume the remains. It came from the lawyers of the land owners; they're calling it a "good will gesture."

"You don't want to disturb someone's final remains, whether they are a human being or an animal," she said.

Williams couldn't be reached for comment. The couple feels she took advantage of their grief.  

"To think that someone was profiting off of this," said Matthew, Staci's husband.

Staci says she does not know where all of their pets are buried. They have to choose from nine different days between now and September to go exhume Bailey.  

"It is pretty indescribable how hard that can be on the person whose friend and pet that was," Matthew said.