Graves in Section 60 are decorated on Memorial Day weekend 2016 at Arlington National Cemetery.

Graves in Section 60 are decorated on Memorial Day weekend 2016 at Arlington National Cemetery. (Robert H. Reid/Stars and Stripes)

WASHINGTON — Arlington National Cemetery will banish pets from its 624 acres under a new policy taking effect Wednesday, cemetery officials announced.

In a notification Monday about the new rule, officials said pets have “impacted the decorum” of funeral services and ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

“This policy has been deemed necessary to alleviate these impacts and continue to provide the type of respectful and contemplative space that Arlington National Cemetery strives to be,” a statement from the cemetery reads.

Current policy states well-behaved pets on leashes are allowed in every part of the cemetery besides John F. Kennedy’s grave. Washingtonian Magazine, NBC News and other news outlets and websites have touted Arlington National Cemetery as a pet-friendly attraction.

Under the new policy, only service animals and working military dogs will be allowed on cemetery grounds.

The ban on pets is part of a set of updates to cemetery policy that all take effect Wednesday, including the closure of the cemetery to bicyclists.

In a statement issued Oct. 17, cemetery officials wrote bicyclists disrupt funeral services, affect other visitors’ experiences and pose safety concerns.

The Arlington County Board and bicycle advocacy organizations in Arlington and nearby Fairfax County argued against the bicycle ban, and about a dozen individuals wrote comments asking officials to reconsider it when they proposed the rule in May.

Cemetery officials have reiterated in announcements about the changes that their primary mission is to “lay to rest those who have served our nation with dignity and honor.”

Full text of the policy changes at Arlington National Cemetery can be found at Twitter: @nikkiwentling

author picture
Nikki Wentling has worked for Stars and Stripes since 2016. She reports from Congress, the White House, the Department of Veterans Affairs and throughout the country about issues affecting veterans, service members and their families. Wentling, a graduate of the University of Kansas, previously worked at the Lawrence Journal-World and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The National Coalition of Homeless Veterans awarded Stars and Stripes the Meritorious Service Award in 2020 for Wentling’s reporting on homeless veterans during the coronavirus pandemic. In 2018, she was named by the nonprofit HillVets as one of the 100 most influential people in regard to veterans policymaking.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now