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Bereaved mum calls for dogs to be kept on leads at Sittingbourne Cemetery after toys on son's grave are repeatedly ripped up

A bereaved mum is calling for action against inconsiderate dog walkers for letting their pets repeatedly rip up toys left on her baby boy’s grave.

Jocasta Thorpe’s son Noah, who was a twin, is buried at Sittingbourne Cemetery after being born prematurely at 22 weeks. His sister Alice survived.

Jocasta Thorpe with Noah's sister Alice
Jocasta Thorpe with Noah's sister Alice

The 40-year-old, who lives in Sittingbourne, said there are a couple of teddies on Noah’s grave, but one in particular - which was a gift from his godmother - has been damaged at least five times since he was buried in March last year.

One time, a friend of Jocasta’s saw a dog with the teddy in its mouth while she was walking through the cemetery in Bell Road. She chased after it and retrieved the toy.

Each time it is damaged, Jocasta repairs it and puts it back where it belongs.

The devastated mum said: “It makes me feel heart sick.

"Noah didn’t get to live. He didn’t get to ride a bike, laugh, learn to walk or talk, all he’s got is his little grave and teddies and if he can’t have this because of absent mindedness and lack of respect, it’s just cruel.

Jocasta is calling for action to be taken against irresponsible dog walkers who let their pets defile her son’s grave
Jocasta is calling for action to be taken against irresponsible dog walkers who let their pets defile her son’s grave

“This particular teddy was a gift from who would have been Noah’s godmother, it’s not replaceable.

“To keep going there and seeing its arm hanging off or it being ripped is so disrespectful. It’s heartbreaking to go there as it is, but to go there and see how people can be so disrespectful, just adds a level of pain that doesn’t need to be there.”

Jocasta says she wants action to be taken against those who are disrespecting the graveyard.

“It’s a place of sombre mourning and grief. You don’t need dogs running around and urinating, let alone destroying teddies on graves. It doesn’t take much to put a dog on a lead."

Sittingbourne Cemetery, as well as graveyards on Sheppey and in Faversham, is subject to a by-law which means dogs must be kept on leads at all times.

"It’s heartbreaking to go there as it is, but to go there and see how people can be so disrespectful, just adds a level of pain that doesn’t need to be there."

Breaching the Public Spaces Protection Order is punishable by a fixed penalty notice of £100. Failure to pay could result in a prosecution.

The legislation is contained under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, but in order to prosecute offenders the council needs evidence of the order being breached, and to track down the individual in charge of the dog.

A council spokesman said: “We haven’t had any direct reports of this issue, but dogs should be kept on leads in all our cemeteries.

“All of our cemeteries have a public spaces protection order in place, which gives us the power to issue £100 fines to dog walkers who don’t keep their animal on a lead.

“If anyone has specific information that could help us – times and locations this might be happening – this would help us try to take action against the small number of dog owners that aren’t following the rules.”

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