A healthy Shih Tzu mix named Emma is reportedly dead due to a request in her late owner’s will.
On March 8, Emma was placed in the temporary custody of Chesterfield County Animal Services after the passing of her owner, as reported by WWBT.
“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."
In spite of the fact that Emma was healthy, she was picked up after two weeks and euthanized because the Shih Tzu's owner wrote into her will that she wanted to be laid to rest with her dog. The manager of Chesterfield County Animal Services, Carrie Jones, told WWBT that the shelter attempted to convince the executor of the owner’s will not to put down Emma.
Jones said, “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."
Sadly, the executor decided to continue with the late owner’s desires and reportedly had the dog taken to a local vet to be euthanized. Her remains were taken to a pet cremation center, and her ashes were then put in an urn and returned to the authorized representative of the estate.
It's uncertain if Emma will really be buried with its owner since burying animal remains with human remains in the same cemetery plot is illegal in Virginia. But Virginia Cemetery code 54.1-2310 only prohibits pets to be buried with humans in commercial cemeteries. The code has exceptions for private and family-owned cemeteries, WWBT reported.
In an interview with PEOPLE, Jason D. Smolen, an estate planning attorney and the co-founding principal of SmolenPlevy in Vienna, Virginia, said:
“In Virginia, as elsewhere, animals are property. Unless you make specific plans for your pets, their disposition rests in the discretion of your executor or estate administrator. As with other property, they can give away or sell your pets."
It is legal for the owner of a pet to “dispose of them in their will as they would during their lives" because pets are property according to the law. Smolen added, “But legal is not the same as ethical/moral, and the law may change as a result of these types of cases."