Paris Dog Cemetery
Le Cimetière des chiens d'Asnières-sur-Seine
The celebrated Parisian cemeteries of Père Lachaise, Montparnasse, and Montmartre have long been popular attractions with thanatophilic tourists--but for the pet fanciers among us, the (said to be the world's oldest public pet cemetery) may be the most appealing graveyard in France.
Le Cimetière des Chiens lies just outside the city, in the suburb of Asnières-sur-Seine. It's easy to reach via the Métro and a short walk (see our illustrated directions), and if you've got time, it offers a pleasant break from more crowded tourist attractions in central Paris.
A bit of history:
The Cimetière des Chiens owes its beginnings to a law that was passed in 1898, when the Paris city government declared that dead pets couldn't just be tossed out with the trash or dumped in the Seine, but had to be buried in hygienic graves at least 100 meters from the nearest dwelling.
Attorney Georges Harmois and journalist Marguerite Durand quickly conceived the idea of a "cemetery for dogs and other domestic animals" on the outskirts of Paris. In June, 1899, digging began on a narrow parcel of riverfront land in Asnières-sur-Seine.
The new cemetery opened for business that summer, and over the years more than 40,000 animals have been buried in the Cimetière des Chiens--not just dogs, but also cats, a racehorse, a lion, a monkey, and domestic animals such as rabbits, hamsters, mice, birds, and fish.
What you'll see:
The Cimetière des Chiens is a long, narrow cemetery with attractively landscaped grounds that overlook the Seine. The neatly laid-out rows of graves include tombstones and other monuments from the late 19th Century to the present day, many with statues or photos of beloved pets.
You'll find a large monument to Barry (the world's most famous St. Bernard), a tomb for police dogs, and a monument to the 40,000th animal buried within the graveyard's walls (a stray dog that was run over by a car near the cemetery gates in 1958).
You'll also encounter plenty of living cats, who live in a shelter on the grounds and like to sun themselves on the tombs.
In this article, we've provided visitor information and captioned photos of Le Cimetière des chiens d'Asnières-sur-Seine.
We recommend a visit for anyone who's fond of animals--and especially for families with young children, who may find a pet cemetery more interesting (and less overwhelming) than the great human nécropoles of Paris.
Opening hours and fees:
The Cimetière des Chiens is open daily (except Mondays) year-round.
The gates open at 10 a.m. Closing time is 6 p.m. (March 16 to October 15) or 4:30 p.m. (October 16 - March 15).
Entry costs 3,50 euros for adults and 1,50 euro for children from 6 to 12. Children under 6 are free.
Unless they're dead and buried, dogs must be on a short leash.
For more information, including a map of the cemetery, visit the dog cemetery page at Asnieres-sur-seine.fr.
How to get there:
The cemetery is located next to the Pont de Clichy bridge in the suburb of Asnières-sur-Seine, just across the river from Clichy and Paris. Free parking is available.
From Paris, you can reach the Cimetière des Chiens by Paris Métro and an easy 15-minute stroll on a level sidewalk from the Marie de Cliche station.
See our step-by-step directions with a map and pictures of landmarks along the way.
More photos of Le Cimetière des chiens d'Asnières-sur-Seine:
Just inside the entrance is a monument to Barry (1800-1814), the St. Bernard from Switzerland who was credited with saving 41 human lives. The monument was erected in 1900.
(Barry is not buried in Asnière-sur-Seine; after his death in 1814, the heroic St. Bernard was handed over to a taxidermist, and his stuffed body remains on display at the Natural History Museum of Bern, Switzerland nearly two centuries after his death.)
A cat strolls past a floral display in the Cimetière des Chiens.
Emma's tombstone is one of the oldest monuments in the cemetery. Emma was born in 1889 (a few months before the Cimetière des Chiens opened) and died on August 2, 1900.
Toby died in February, 1922 at the age of 17; his gravemate, whose name has mostly chipped off the enameled metal plaque, lived only to age 5.
Time and weather have worn the inscriptions off this double doghouse, which has an entombed pet behind each doorway.
This grave is topped by a topiary form that apparently had shed its coat over the winter.
The photo was taken at the start of the growing season; maybe the head will be restored by the time you visit the cemetery.
We once had a wire-haired fox terrier named Yodel, so we felt a pang of nostalgia and sadness when we visited this grave.
Question: Can you tell which flowers in this photo are artificial?
Answer: The ceramic roses next to the clay pots.
Ceramic flowers are popular in French cemeteries (both canine and human), and these glazed violets are typical of the genre.
The creeping vine at the upper left of the photo is real.
This is another of the cemetery's older tombstones, with an Art Nouveau motif as a backdrop to the statue of the departed dog.
Bébe (1985-2000) and Goliath (1991-2006) share a modern gravestone.
Another grave is adorned by statues of two dogs.
The French inscription on the cast-iron plaque identifies this tomb's occupant as "Lick, our faithful friend."
Although the Cimetière des Chiens is called a dog cemetery, it has a section for cats. This feline statue is one of the largest monuments on the grounds.
Not all of the cemetery's cats are dead. The cemetery rules state that living cats have free run of the grounds (presumably because French officials are resigned to the fact that cats have little respect for bureaucracy).
A cat-welfare organization has a shelter at the back of the cemetery, complete with pet door. (Humans can sit on a bench nearby and call "Here, kitty kitty" or the French equivalent.)
After spending an hour or more among the graves of dead animals, it's nice to make contact with a living creature--even if it's a jaded, bored-looking cat.
Next page: Métro and walking directions
Durant Imboden is a professional travel writer, book author, and editor who focuses on European cities and transportation.
After 4-1/2 years of covering European travel topics for About.com, Durant and Cheryl Imboden co-founded Europe for Visitors (including Paris for Visitors) in 2001. The site has earned "Best of the Web" honors from Forbes and The Washington Post.