Healthy dog euthanized so it could be buried with its late owner

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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - A Virginia dog owner’s last request for her pet is causing some debate.

The owner, who passed away, apparently directed her family to have the dog euthanized so they could be laid to rest together.

Emma, a Shih Tzu mix, arrived at the Chesterfield Animal Shelter March 8.

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During her two week stay, shelter personnel had several discussions with representatives of the dead woman’s estate, trying to talk them out of euthanizing the dog.

The minute Emma left the shelter, she was taken to a local vet and put down.

"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 it. But ultimately, they came back in on March 22 and redeemed the dog back,” Chesterfield Animal Services Manager Carrie Jones said.

After Emma was euthanized, her remains were taken to a local pet cremation center. Her ashes were placed in an urn and returned to the authorized representatives of the estate.

"It's not legal to put a dog's cremated remains or any animal in a casket and bury them,” Virginia Funeral Director’s Association President Larry Spiaggi said. "I am licensed by the state of Virginia. So, I have a license on the line with the health professionals board. So, I cannot do it."

Pets are personal property in the eyes of the law and putting down a healthy dog or cat is by no means illegal. Thought many vets have ethical issues with it.

"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, it's something we take home too. It weighs on us as professionals,” Dr. Kenny Lucas Shady with Grove Animal Clinic said.

Many years ago, before the law changed, Spiaggi helped make arrangements for a client who wanted her elderly dog euthanized and buried with her in the casket.

"And knowing that all the while we were taking care of her, that poor dog was being euthanized. Even after I saw its temperament and everything, I still ached over it,” he said.

While Virginia’s cemetery code does not allow pets to be buried with human, there is an exception.

The rule only stands for commercial cemeteries, not private and family owned cemeteries.