Healthy Virginia dog reportedly euthanized to be buried with owner

Owner asked to be buried with dog in will

By Samantha Smith - Digital Content Producer
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RICHMOND, Va. - Dogs and their owners normally share a special bond. But for one Virginia woman, she made it clear in her will that she wanted to take that bond to the grave. 

A healthy Shih Tzu mix named Emma was recently euthanized after her dead owner left instructions in her will for the pet to be cremated and buried with her, according to WWBT

The NBC affiliate reports that Emma arrived at a Chesterfield County animal shelter on March 8 after her owner's death, and stayed for about two weeks before the executor of the owner's estate asked to put Emma down. 

Shelter personnel tell WWBT that staff tried to talk him out of euthanizing Emma, but she was eventually 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,” Carrie Jones, the manager of Chesterfield Animal Services, told WWBT. “Ultimately, they came back in on March 22 and redeemed the dog.”

The dog's remains were taken to a pet cremation center in Richmond where her ashes were put in an urn to be buried with her owner. 

The ethics of putting down a pet at the owner's wishes remain fuzzy, but as Virginia Funeral Directors Association President Larry Spiaggi told WWBT, the law is clear.  

"It’s not legal to put a dog’s cremated remains -- or any animal -- in a casket and bury them," Spiaggi told WWBT.

While burying a pet with its owner in a casket is against the law in commercial cemeteries, there are exceptions for private and family-owned cemeteries. 

Still, many vets won't do it -- including Dr. Kenny Lucas with the Shady Grove Animal Clinic, who spoke with WWBT. 

“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. “Also it’s something we take home too. It weighs on us as professionals.”

The NBC affiliate reports that at least on Virginia lawmaker is considering legislation that would close the loophole that allows for this kind of situation and end this practice once and for all. 

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