Emma (not pictured above) was a healthy Shih Tzu mix with a long life ahead of her. Sadly, her beloved human died and left instructions in her will to have Emma euthanized and buried along with her former master.
Personnel at the Chesterfield Animal Shelter, outside of Richmond, VA, tried desperately to talk the executor of the woman’s estate out of euthanizing an otherwise healthy animal.
“We did suggest they could sign the dog over on numerous occasions, because it’s a dog we could easily find a home for and re-home,” Carrie Jones, manager of Chesterfield Animal Services, WWBT NBC. “Ultimately, they came back in on March 22nd and redeemed the dog.”
Emma was taken to a veterinarian, euthanized, cremated, and given to the executor of the dead woman’s estate.
As WWBT reported, burying an animal’s remains with human remains is illegal in most cases. Larry Spiaggi, who owns Morrissett Funeral home and is also president of the Virginia Funeral Director’s Association, told WWBT that since he is licensed by the state of Virginia’s Health Professionals Board, he legally can’t euthanize an animal and bury it with its owner.
WWBT reported doing so violates Virginia Cemetery code 54.1-2310, which prohibits burying pets with humans at commercial cemeteries (but not private or family-owned ones). Virginia law defines a cemetery as “any land or structure used or intended to be used for the interment of human remains.”
Putting down a healthy animal like Emma should be considered both morally and ethically wrong, no matter what a former owner writes in their will.
WWBT asked the question: “Is euthanizing pets to be buried with dead owners OK?”
No, it’s not. How can a person claim to love their pet yet want it murdered rather than live without them?
The New York Post reported the story was met with a backlash on Twitter, with people condemning the people involved in euthanizing Emma:
“WTF!!! people don’t care for animals in life or death!!! this is heartless, inhumane, and pitiful!!!!,” one particularly heated post reads. “And the people who killed said dog are even more trash!!”
WWBT spoke with local veterinarian Dr. Kenny Lucas from the Shady Grove Animal Clinic in Glen Allen, VA. Lucas discussed how difficult euthanasia is for all involved.
“Whenever we’re faced with a euthanasia situation, it’s a very emotional situation — and beyond everything we talk about — that we need to do ethically, and we’ve taken an oath to do,” he said. “It’s something we take home, too. It weighs on us as professionals.”
Fox8 reported that Virginia law considers pets personal property, “and, while it isn’t illegal to euthanize a healthy pet, ethical considerations may prevent vets from performing the procedure.”
KMIZ added that cemeteries “must set aside a clearly marked part of the property to create sections where pets and humans are buried together, and no pet may be buried in the same grave, crypt or niche as a human.”