For 100 years, Casa Rosa in Rome has been the final resting place for about 1,000 pets, from dogs and cats to hens, pigeons and even a lioness named Greta.
The pet cemetery, the oldest in Italy, was created in 1922 after the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini asked the veterinary for his Great Danes, Antonio Molon, to find a place where to bury the beloved hen that had been his children's playmate.
Word spread and soon the cemetery on the southern outskirts of Rome, started receiving requests for burials, both from ordinary people and from VIPs. Casa Rosa, now run by Molon’s son, Luigi, hosts the pets of the Savoy royal dynasty, film director Federico Fellini, actresses Anna Magnani and Brigitte Bardot, former Italian president Sandro Pertini, among others.
Interviewed by Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Molon said he can find a burying space within two hours of receiving the request, and that some pet owners visit almost every day. “Each buried animal has its own story,” he told La Repubblica.
Tombs are decorated with inscriptions, candles, toys, leashes and other objects that belonged to the animals. According to Molon, besides many dogs and cats, there are also two monkeys, ducks, rabbits, pigeons, parrots, horses, hamsters and a sparrow.
In regards to Mussolini’s chicken, Molon told The Guardian that Mussolini asked his dad if he could bury the animal in a piece of land he owned, “somewhere his sons could visit, leave a flower and recall happy times.” At that time, it was not uncommon to give children baby chickens as a present.
Generally, burial plots are rented for five years, The Guardian reports, and many pet owners choose to renew.
In Italy, there is no law on burial places for pets, but given the increasing demand, this may soon change. The Five Star Movement political party is working on a proposal for the creation of domestic animal cemeteries. Currently, most domestic animals are cremated. Casa Rosa has a city license, the only such place in the Italian capital. Domestic animal cemeteries exist in other Italian cities.
And if you think a domestic animal cemetery is a modern thing, think again. The ancient Egyptians buried their cats with the same dignity reserved for human beings: they laid them down in single tombs, wearing ornate collars.