A contractor is free to pave a pet cemetery after owners of the dead animals failed to appeal a judge's decision.

Second District Court Judge David E. Roth ruled on Nov. 30 that 24 owners of graves at Mountain View Cemetery do not own deeds to the sites and cannot prevent the construction of an Internal Revenue Service parking lot there.The judge gave the pet owners 10 days to appeal the decision, but they could not afford it, said litigant Merlene Bowman.

"We just don't have it. We're all poor people. I guess we're going to have to let it drop," said Bowman, whose Siamese cat is buried at the 198-pet cemetery.

The cemetery may not be paved for some time due to winter weather conditions, said Kevin Bay, project manager at the site for Bodell Construction. The parking lot would have been completed by the end of August if the lawsuit had not been filed, he said.

Bay said the delay has cost the builders thousands of dollars, while they have suffered from adverse publicity and negative comments.

"It's really disrupted the flow of the project," he said.

In June, pet owners filed a lawsuit against cemetery owner Lee Brown, Liberty West Investment Co. and Bodell, saying plans to dig up the cemetery to build a parking lot for the new 47,000-square-foot IRS building encroached on their property.

The building was completed in October, but the cemetery has remained because of a temporary court order.