In Ancient Egypt, if someone died their pets would sometimes be killed so that they could be buried alongside them. Apologies, I've miswritten that – in 2019 Virginia, USA, when somebody dies they will sometimes have their pets killed so that they can be buried together.
The owner of Emma, a healthy Shih Tzu mix from Richmond, explicitly asked for her to be killed in their will. The owner wanted the dog to be cremated so that their ashes could be together immediately after they passed on.
Following the death of the owner, Emma was taken to an animal shelter in Chesterfield County. She stayed at the shelter for two weeks before the executor of the will arrived to collect the dog to carry out the owner's wishes, NBC 12 reports.
The animal shelter was less than happy to hand over a healthy pet to be killed rather than adopted. During the two-week stay, the animal shelter had conversations with the executor to try to persuade them not to carry out the demands in the will.
“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, told NBC 12. “Ultimately, they came back in on March 22 and redeemed the dog.”
People are, unsurprisingly, not happy.
Euthanizing healthy pets is legal in the state, and euthanasia, in general, can be performed by licensed veterinarians, animal control officers, humane investigators, and certified euthanasia technicians, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. However, vets tend to be reluctant to end the life of a healthy animal, and the executor struggled to find someone to euthanize Emma.
“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,” Dr Kenny Lucas from the Shady Grove Animal Clinic told NBC 12, explaining why he wouldn't do it.
“It’s something we take home too. It weighs on us as professionals.”
However, the executor was able to find a vet that would carry out the owner's wishes, and Emma was put down. The dog was taken to a crematorium that deals with pets.
In Virginia, it's not legal to bury animals in the same grave or crypt as humans. However, there are exceptions in the cases of private and family-owned cemeteries, NBC 12 reports.