Pet friendly Washington

Arlington Dog Friendly No More

Arlington National Cemetery is a dog-friendly historic slice of history where you are welcome to bring your well-behaved, leashed dog. Arlington National Cemetery, located in the northern part of Virginia and bordering Washington D.C., is the final resting place of more than 300,000 people. Beginning with the American Revolution, veterans from each of our nation’s wars along with astronauts, sports figures and dignitaries are buried here. The tree-lined walkways and pristine grounds reflect a silent dignity while exploring, paying homage and saluting this sentimental landscape. Respectful and dignified behavior is expected at all times.

Arlington National Cemetery no pets

We’ve crossed off the pet-friendly aspect of the cemetery for it is no more. For as long as this dog mom and writer can remember, Arlington National Cemetery allowed well-behaved leashed dogs ontoher premises. Pets are no longer allowed on the grounds of Arlington unless they are service dogs or military working dogs. This is the official statement and new policy.

Today my heart breaks a bit. Arlington holds a special place in my heart and the hearts of thousands and thousands of respectful dog parents who visited her grounds every year.

The welcome mat is no longer in place for cyclists visiting the hallowed grounds, either, except families and their guests who are visiting loved ones’ graves, the Army announced Monday.

A writer for Stars and Stripes in DC asked for a statement from me because we have been touting the pets welcome policy of Arlington National Cemetery for years (years as in 23 years).

“I saw you did a post a couple of years ago about the cemetery being open to pets, and was wondering if you had an opinion on the matter.”

I missed her deadline but this is my official statement:

As a dog parent to well-behaved dogs, I have been visiting Arlington National Cemetery and paying our respects for over 20 years with a dog by our side. This breaks my heart that well-behaved leashed canines are no longer able to walk through Arlington National Cemetery with their pet parents to pay respects. Over the years, as a highly respected pet blogger, I have recommended that pet parents visit the cemetery when visiting the area. It saddens me that this will no longer be happening. Perhaps the powers that be at the cemetery can section off the area around the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier so that passersby with dogs are not allowed in the vicinity. Many times over the years, crying babies and screaming children have been heard in that same area, but they are not banned. I just ask for equal consideration.

Arlington National Cemetery no longer pet friendly

What Others Think

In her article for Stars and Stripes, fellow mom and “have dog will travel” friend, Erika Searl weighs in. Searl and her two well-behaved dogs visit the grave of a family member, Charles Searl, a B-17 pilot with the 398th Bomb Group who was killed in action during World War II.

“It is a beautiful cemetery, and we think pets should be allowed if they (and their humans) are respectful and follow the cemetery rules by walking on the leash on the paths,” Searl told the Stars and Stripes reporter.

“I also agree I have seen unruly children at hallowed places and it infuriates me,” says Arlene O’Neil, mom to a military son. “Thankfully, my once unruly son, grew to serve his country in the Army for the past 16 years and 5 deployments. And still serves! I’d prefer a barking dog to a screaming child at Arlington, but I’d actually be okay with neither.”

She isn’t alone. Kathy Hensel Porter says her entire appreciation of Arlington stems from her father’s 30-year career in the army and how much it influenced her life.

Porter says she loves being able to visit the monuments late at night and wonders if that will continue with changes in security.

Sally Brancheau Belknap goes to Arlington yearly for Wreaths Across America. “Last year it was particularly bad with people,” she says. “There were kids playing football in Arlington (not at gravesites), Cub Scouts even.”

She did say something to the boys but they resumed after she walked by.

Arlington National Cemetery no longer pet friendly

What Makes Us Sad

Those of us who abide by rules, clean up after our dogs, are respectful to those who have served and passed on…we are the ones being punished. I understand that a cemetery is a place of rest, a place of respect, and a place of honor and worship for many.

I am very respectful and my goal is to educate other pet parents to be the same way. It breaks me that if it is because of barking near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, why not ban a perimeter around it. It’s been a favorite spot of ours, we’ve hiked it, my wife always enjoys going there with me, and we always have a dog by our side. My heart is pretty broken over it.

Pet friendly Valley Forge National Park

What You Can Do

Respect the wishes and rules of Arlington National Cemetery. We probably won’t be able to return because we want a well-behaved dog with us when we hike it and tour the grave sites.

Visit other historic places that do allow well-behaved leashed dogs like:

Valley Forge National Park 

Gettysburg National Military Park

Make sure your dog is well behaved, that you clean up after your dog, and that you treat any world beyond your abode with respect. Strengthen the bond you have with your dog and learn some fun skills, too, by training for the Canine Good Citizen test, as we did. Note: Our dog, Dexter, passed with home training alone.

If this is a security issue as some reports are claiming, I am all for keeping our country safe. A well-behaved dog by my side helps me feel a lot more secure.


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  1. It is sad that places have to change their policies, but so many people really don’t have their dogs under control and they ruin things for everyone.

    1. If the way dog owners don’t pick up after their pets like they do in front of my home, I can see their point in not allowing dogs in the cemetery. There seem to be more and more irresponsible dog owners that ruin the enjoyment of responsible owners.

  2. Great article, Carol. Thankfully more and more places are allowing dogs though. Please keep posting places that allow dogs!

  3. The bottom line is that there are too many people who don’t control or pick up after their dogs & ruin it for those that do. The same goes for hotels, parks & buildings.

  4. I am sure it is because people didn’t follow the rules and someone was bitten or threatened by a dog not under control. Which is not the dog’s fault but the humans. That or people were not cleaning up after their dogs and the maintenance was costing too much money.

    Things like this generally come down to the 3% not following the rules ruining it for the 97% who do.

  5. We, too, were contacted by Stars and Stripes. I certainly respect ANC”s decision and know that a stakeholder comment period and much thought went into it, but with ANC as a near neighbor, we will also miss being able to visit with Tavish for tranquility and contemplative reflection. While I don’t know if the new policy addresses this, I hope ANC might consider continuing to allow family and friends of those interred to bring their pet/family member to not only pay respects but also provide comfort. Also, as written, the current policy precludes many veterans and fellow servicemen and women coping with PTSD from visiting with therapy or emotional support dogs as they do not necessarily fall wirhin the service dog category.

  6. There are many dogs out there who visit Arlington with their owners not just because they are going for a walk, but because they too are mourning the loss of someone they loved who is now buried at ANC.. How sad to take that opportunity away from them.

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