Row over dogs in cemetery

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The erection of new signage in Polepatrick Park/Cemetery, Magherafelt, seems to be causing confusion for dog owners and upset for people who have loved ones buried there.

The signage appears to show that dogs are allowed into the cemetery area providing they are kept on a lead.

However, a Mid Ulster Council spokesperson said that there is “no change to the existing stipulation which does not allow access to dogs in a defined area of Polepatrick.”

It follows a complaint by a mother who said she has been left “distressed beyond belief” to discover her son’s grave had been disturbed by a dog.

The woman, who asked not to be named, said she visits her son’s grave every day and recently discovered that a dog “had been pawing through it”.

“I also noted a couple walking their dog on an extendable lead allowing it to walk over the grass where those are buried in the non-denominational area,” she claimed.

“I and many of the other families who have laid our precious loved ones to rest in the cemetery are horrified by the decision to allow dogs in anyway shape or form into any part of Polepatrick Cemetery. It would seem that this decision was made by a human without any being.”

SDLP Councillor Christine McFlynn said she would be raising the matter with council directors. She said it was her understanding that dog owners are not allowed to walk their pets in the cemetery area whether they are on a lead or not. “It is very disrespectful to the people who are buried there,” she said.

The Council spokesperson stressed that dog owners should be mindful of where they are and show respect: “While we are currently reviewing the rules and regulations for all of our cemeteries, there is no change to the existing stipulation which does not allow access to dogs in a defined area of Polepatrick.”

“Signage in Polepatrick is, however, currently being renewed to align with other parks and cemeteries across Mid Ulster.

“The new signage continues to stress the need for responsible dog ownership, reminding dog walkers that they must clean up after their dogs and keep them on leads at all times.”