Dog gone: healthy pet put down in Virginia so it can be buried with owner

Staff and agencies


The unusual death of a woman’s dog in Virginia has sparked outcry and a debate over whether it is ok to kill a healthy pet and bury it with its owner according to their dying wish.

Emma, a shih tzu mix, was euthanised and cremated in March as per its owner’s will. The dog was put down despite the efforts of animal shelter workers who spent two weeks trying to talk the executor of the woman’s estate out of the plan.

Emma was reportedly taken to a vet, put down and then taken to a pet cremation centre in Richmond, Virginia, and the ashes given to the executor in an urn for burial.

“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,” said Carrie Jones, manager of Chesterfield Animal Services.

In Virginia, pets are considered personal property and, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, vets are allowed to perform euthanasia in such cases.

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Some cemeteries are also allowed to bury pets with their owners, so the issue is more an ethical than a legal one.

Dr Kenny Lucas, a veterinarian at the Shady Grove animal clinic, said he wouldn’t go ahead with such a request. “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 told WWBT. “Also it’s something we take home too. It weighs on us as professionals.”

Larry Spiaggi, the president of the Virginia Funeral Directors Association said he found the practice of euthanising a healthy dog and burying it with its owner abhorrent.

A state lawmaker is considering legislation to address the problem.

Associated Press contributed to this report