In this week’s ‘You Ask, We Investigate’ report, Fox 24’s Katelynn Zoellner looked into what the City of Fort Smith plans to do with a cemetery at the HOPE Humane Society.
The shelter is facing possible foreclosure next month and that is raising concern about the future of the Moran Memorial Pet Cemetery.
“We thought our dogs were going to be here permanently and that’s why we chose to have them buried here,” said Marta Love.
Love said she has four dogs buried at the cemetery. She said she paid more than $300 for each animal to be buried there.
“We are not concerned about the money at all,” she said. “We are just concerned about the city coming along and maybe digging up the property or turning this into a parking lot. There’s been numerous rumors about what will happen.”
The shelter has a $500,000 loan due to BancorpSouth in July and not enough funds.
“If that note is not refinanced and probably paid off slightly, the bank may foreclose on the property,” said Carl Geffken, city administrator in Fort Smith. “I think that is the concern not only of the hope humane society, but many of our residents in this city and the region.”
Geffken said the city is looking to buy property from the shelter to expand its utility and streets departments. But, as of now, that offer has not gone through.
“If the city does buy land from the hope humane society, I know we will look to honor that cemetery as well,” he said. “To many people, their pets are just as important as a human loved one.”
People like Love, who have animals buried at the cemetery, are just hoping for the best.
“We’ve been told that we can come pick up our markers, but with our pets being buried here, we’ve buried special things with our pets like their favorite blankets or favorite toys and we don’t know what is going to happen there,” she said. “If all of that is going to be destroyed it would be very upsetting.”
The city’s relationship with the shelter has ended. The shelter is no longer accepting stray pets from Fort Smith Animal Control officers. It has until July to use its remaining available funds to empty the shelter through local adoptions or out-of-state transports.
City leaders voted on Tuesday (June 4) to approve a resolution to direct the Geffken and his staff to figure out how they want to deal with impoundment services moving forward.
If there’s something you want to know about in your community, we want to investigate it. You can send your questions to Katelynn at KZoellner@knwa.com.