Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery

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Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery is a memorial park and place of interment. It is primarily a final resting place for beloved pets, yet human beings also are interred there.

Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery
13730 Georgia Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20906


Richard C and Bertha T Birney established a kennel at this location to breed schnauzers. They attached their fame at producing champions in the breed with the name "Aspin", a famous kennel in England, and that fit right in with the local place name which was originally "Aspen" and later Aspen Hill.

The Birneys buried several of their own dogs at this location, and some of their neighbors asked if they could also inter their pets there. In August 1920, one J G Croun had their St Bernard dog's remains interred there.

In 1946, the property was sold to one Edgar Reubush, DVM, who sold the property in 1961 to one S. Alfred Nash, an embalmer by trade. While graves were normally hand dug, power equipment from the adjacent Gate of Heaven Cemetery human cemetery was called upon for the rare horse burial. Beyond that, no business relationship existed between Mr. Nash and the Gate of Heaven Cemetery, or between the two cemeteries during Mr. Nash's period of ownership.

Shapiro Legacy

In 1988, Dorothy M. Shapiro of Potomac MD bought the 8-acre cemetery for a mere $400,000, in concert with an unnamed group of other concerned citizens, in order to forestall possible development as a commercial property. She started looking for responsible management to take care of the place (Barr, Cameron W., "Pet Owners Grieving All Over Again: Cemetery Benefactor Takes Group to Court Over Shoddy Upkeep",B01, Washington Post, Jan 11, 2005, downloaded 2008 May 28).

"The PETA Years"

In 1988 People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals ("PETA") acquired the property from Ms Shapiro (deed liber HMS 8280, folio 178), making a promise to preserve the property as a pet cemetery in condition equal to or better than at the time of assumption of management.

PETA achieved international notoriety for the case of "the Silver Spring Monkeys", and in its newletter "PeTA Kids" (No. 3, Summer 1989, p. 6) Aspin Hill is described in the article "A Very Special Place" where "...animals can live without fear of people hurting or killing them." PETA suffered additional notoriety over an incident where perfectly healthy rabbits and roosters (1991) were slaughtered on the Aspin Hill grounds and additional controversy erupted, although not locally, when accountant Sam Alston testified in Nevada that PETA Executive Directory Kim Stallwood and Gary Bevestock had achieved personal financial gains by "shorting" the finances at Aspin Hill. There are unsubstantiated rumors that the notorious Animal Liberation Front occasionally used the place as a "safe house".

Eventually PETA decided to move out of Montgomery County. They began to work with Ms Shapiro to try to locate another group to act as caretaker.

Chesapeake Wildlife Sanctuary Inc.

In 1996, Ms Shapiro signed a deal with Dianne D. Pearce, who ran the Chesapeake Wildlife Sanctuary, Inc., allegedly as a non-profit organization, to operate and maintain Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery.

At one time highly regarded, Pearce's operations began to fall apart over the next decade.

In October 2004, failure to submit records caused an Anne Arundel judge to revoke Chesapeake's non-profit status in Maryland. Maryland's Department of Natural Resources had made a request for documentary support for continuation of a permit to rehabilitate wildlife, and no such documentary support was made in any acceptable form.

Continuing concerns over the use of the property were expressed by the board of directors of the Aspen Hill Civic Association, Inc., due to a general lack of maintenance and upkeep at the facility, which was becoming overgrown and which had a variety of vehicles stored on the grounds.

Ms Shapiro brought a court action seeking compensatory and punitive damages, and the case was eventually resolved by Judge DeLawrence Beard. A memorandum of opinion and order as of April 9 2007 found Dianne D Pearce, Chesapeake Wildlife Sanctuary, Inc., and vice-president Victor G. Riemer, to be in violation of a declaration of covenants and restrictions (Brachfeld, Melissa J., Gazette, April 18 2007, downloaded 2008 May 27).

The property was eventually transferred to the name of the Montgomery County Humane Society.

Montgomery County Humane Society

In September 2008, the Montgomery County Department of Housing and Code Enforcement inspected the various buildings at 13630 Georgia Avenue and issued a slew of code violations and condemned the buildings as unfit for human habitation (Hyslop, Margie, Another leader's departure shakes Humane Society, Critics see failures in running of animal shelter, Gazette, Sept 24, 2008, as downloaded 2008 Sept 25).

The property had been purchased by Ms Shapiro 1988 in order to forestall a proposed redevelopment of the property.

All of this takes place in the shadow of major internal power struggles in the Montgomery County Humane Society, and the departure of one J.C. Crist and others.

One Nicholas Gilman of Humane Logic, Inc. was brought on board to manage a transition between directors and board members of the Human Society, and he had this to say about the Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery: "I think that the Aspin Hill property is one that the organization is going to see value not as a pet cemetery but that might have value as an education center, but that has not been developed".

Ms Shapiro said: "Well I could have given it to someone else that I think could have worked it better," she said. "These last years it just went downhill and I hope to see it have better days." (MCHS Interim Head Wades In: Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery may be part of the Montgomery County Humane Society's financial troubles, Stern, Aaron, Potomac Almanac, August 27 2008, downloaded 2008 Sept 26)

Famed Pet Cemetery Aspin Hill Memorial Park's Future is in Jeopardy

The recession has taken a big toll on the upkeep of the Maryland facility, which is run by the Montgomery County Humane Society. Donations to the Humane Society are down 15% this year, so organizers hope people will be willing to volunteer to help mow lawns and help maintain the property.

The Humane Society is also looking for donations to help restore a 1930's-era house on the property. A covenant protects the land from being developed, but the house hasbeen condemned and will be demolished if the Humane Society doesn't fix the structure within a year.

The Fur Coat Memorial -- established when People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals operated the property before decamping to Virginia in the mid-1990s -- and the Medical Rats Memorial, call Aspin Hill home.

The Interred

Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery is the final resting place of thousands of pets including many celebrity pets. Allegedly the pooch that played "Petey" on "The Little Rascals" is buried here. Aspin Hill is also the final resting place of J. Edgar Hoover's dog Spee-de-Bozo.

Alexandria police K-9 vets are buried at Aspin Hill, as is Rags, the mascot of the U.S. Army's 1st Infantry Division, who carried a note past enemy lines to Allied forces during World War I, the Gazette reported.

A number of graves even contain humans who chose to be buried with their pets. Most if not all those are cremated remains. Former owner Alfred Nash and his wife are also buried in the cemetery.


Deed References

Liber 34247 folio 703, liber 34247 folio 703, liber 13952 folio 246, liber 8280 folio 178, liber 1033 folio 159, liber 422 folio 109, liber 294 folio 492, liber 275 folio 109, liber 254 folio 70, liber 240 folio 480, liber TD 27 folio 63

Refs EBP 1 folio 410 et seq including plat map as to bounds of divisional line between Bowie and Rannie lands. Refs also EBP 12, folio 1.

Note that after the swap of 17 acres each, the Bowies owned land more to the southeast, and the Rannies owns land more to the northwest.

Plat 3970 reference, not depicted.


Deposition of Sam Alston, 27, 34-54, Berosini v. PETA. Case A276505 (District Court, Clark County, Nevada). See also "AnimalScam: The Beastly Abuse of Human Rights", Marquardt, Kathleen, Levine, Herbert M., LaRochelle, Mark