Virginia woman dies, wants dog euthanized and buried with her

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VIRGINIA (CNN) — 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.

Some say the act was not only cruel, it was also illegal. In the always-crowded Chesterfield Animal Shelter, surrounded by strays and cast-offs, sat a very special dog.

Not your typical pound puppy or mongrel, but a well-bred animal that looked much like this one. She was a pampered and much loved dog.

In fact, you might say she was loved to death.

Emma arrived at the shelter March 8 and 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 this dog, so it could be laid to rest with her master.

But to no avail.

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

“We did suggest they could sign the dog over on numerous occasions,” said Carrie Jones, with the Chesterfield Animal Services Manager. “Because it’s a dog we could easily find a home for and re-home it. But ultimately, they came back in on March 22nd and redeemed the dog back.”

After Emma was euthanized, her remains were taken to a local pet cremation center. Her ashes were then placed in an urn and returned to the authorized representative of the estate, in accordance with the dead woman’s will.

“It’s not legal to put a dog’s cremated remains or any animal in a casket and bury them,” Larry Spiaggi, president of Virginia Funeral Director Association.

He’s president of the Virginia Funeral Directors Association and owner of Morrissett Funeral and Cremation Services.

When you walk into his funeral home, you’ll probably be greeted by one of spiaggi’s chocolate labs.

This fella’s name is “Peace,” he has free run of the place.

And while he is Spiaggi’s personal pet, Peace, is also a highly trained and certified therapy dog. He’s there to help clients through their grief.

You’d be hard pressed to find a funeral director more pet friendly than this one. Just don’t ask him to slip rover’s cremated remains in grandma’s casket because he won’t do it.

“I am licensed by the state of Virginia. So I have a license on the line with the health professionals board. So I can NOT do it,” he said.

And finding a vet to euthanize a healthy dog or cat won’t be easy.

Pets are personal property in the eyes of the law and putting down a healthy dog or cat, is by no means illegal. Still, 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,” said Dr. Kenny Lucas with the Shady Grove Animal Clinic.

And Spiaggi knows where he’s coming from.

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

It’s something that still haunts larry to this day.

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

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

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

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