BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — In a suburban forest in Serbia's capital Belgrade, dozens of small make-shift tombstones lie hidden among the greenery. Buried in this clandestine graveyard are some of the neighborhood pets, which their owners wanted close by even after they died.
Improvised burial sites like this one are believed to have sprouted in recent years in Belgrade — a city of some 1.6 million people and tens of thousands of pets — as residents await the long-delayed opening of an official pet cemetery.
Belgrade city authorities have promised to soon wrap up the project that first started a decade ago — but which still remains in the planning stages. Authorities have allocated some 3.7 acres of land in a suburb, with some 2,000 burial spots planned.
Experts agree an official cemetery is necessary to avoid clandestine burials in the city's green zones and downtown parks.
"Belgrade absolutely needs a pet cemetery, it's a big city and there are many pets," said veterinarian Nenad Milojkovic. Many pet owners refuse to follow the official procedure and call public services to dispose of the carcasses after their pets die, he added.
With no official burial site to turn to, pet owners are using city parks as their pets' final resting place.
Sasa Milovanovic, a real estate agent walking his dog Woopy in Kalemegdan park in Belgrade city center, said pet owners simply have to "manage any way they can."