A healthy dog was euthanised and buried after her owner left specific instructions to have the dog killed and interred with her.
The Shih Tzu mix, called Emma, arrived at an animal shelter in Chesterfield County in Virginia on March 8, following the death of her owner. She remained there for two weeks, before the executor of the dead woman’s estate brought forth the woman’s wish to have her dog killed.
Emma was then taken to a local vet and put down. She has since been cremated, and her remains were placed in an urn in the casket of her dead owner.
Staff at the animal shelter reportedly pleaded with officials in order to stop the death, but were unsuccessful.
The situation has raised legal concerns. Under Virginia law, dogs are personal property, and it is legal to euthanise a healthy pet.
However, according to Larry Spiaggi, the president of Virginia Funeral Directors Association, it is not legal to bury the remains of a pet with a person, including putting them into a person’s casket, as was done with Emma’s ashes.
There are some exceptions to this law, in cases of private and family-owned cemeteries. It’s unclear where Emma and her owner are now buried.
Online, animal lovers expressed outrage over the unnecessary euthanisation and cremation.
"This is the worst," one Twitter user wrote, "but it's a perhaps inevitable result of our owning dogs and controlling their lives."
Carrie Jones, the manager of Chesterfield Animal Services, where Emma was located before the woman’s estate collected her for her death, expressed regret over the situation.
“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,” Miss Jones told WWBT. “Ultimately, they came back in on March 22 and redeemed the dog.”