BOULDER CITY (FOX5) -- New crosses and fresh plots show pet owners in Southern Nevada continue to bury their pets inside the withering Boulder City Pet Cemetery, despite warning signs prohibiting it.
Boulder City officials erected a fence and signs against the practice years ago, but newer white crosses, with dates as recent as October 2019, illustrate grieving pet owners’ reluctance to adhere to the rules.
“They still do it,” said Gary Carlson, author of "Searchlight Road Pet Cemetery."
The cemetery is off the northbound side of U.S. 95 just south of Boulder City. Carlson and his wife Cindy have cataloged and photographed each of the plots. The couple have published pictures of each plot in their book and say there are approximately 2,000.
“We found everything from lizards, snakes, cats, dogs, even horses and we found a few mules or donkeys,” Carlson said.
Historians say the story behind the now-dilapidated pet cemetery began in the late 1950s with a man named Emory Lockette.
“If someone needed a place to bury their pets, Emory had this place that he sort of outlined in the bottom of El Dorado Valley," said Dennis McBride, director of Nevada State Museum. "He was making a little bit of money burying these pets on government land."
After about ten years of pet burials, The Bureau of Land Management put an end to Lockette’s profitable, albeit illegal business.
“He stopped his involvement in it, but by that time it had become a tradition in Southern Nevada," McBride said. "The Boulder City Pet Cemetery is where you took Fatums, and Snowball, and Pepe and whoever else it was, and you buried them down there."
Lockette charged between $60 and $80 dollars per plot, which included small wooden fences along the perimeter.
For some pet owners, however, the wooden fences and single crosses were not enough to memorialize their beloved pets.
“Some of them have made really expensive headstones. They’ve gone to professional headstone makers,” McBride said.
Some have said the mafia used the grounds to bury their victims, but McBride is quick to dispel any rumors.
“What mobsters would be buried down there? We know where most of them are anyway,” McBride said.
Others believe the cemetery is haunted by the four-legged creatures buried there.
“I don’t think it’s haunted either. I heard those rumors. And I’ve been down there at night," McBride said. "There is nothing mysterious in the dark, or chirping birds, or purring cats, or barking dogs. No, the dead are dead in the Boulder City Pet Cemetery."
Despite brutal summer heat and harsh winter winds, Carlson said the cemetery is in surprisingly good shape.
McBride visits the site periodically to take pictures and visit prominent plots.
“It’s so personal the way these pets have been buried in ways that you’re not allowed to in any kind of a convention cemetery,” McBride said. “It’s just folk art. Folk ways, that is very important, I think, and so I hope it stays that way, and I’ll continue my visits and take pictures as the graves disappear back into the sand.”