Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Friday, May 24, 2019

Healthy Dog Euthanized for Burial with Owner in Virginia

SaddogAnita Callop-Thompson, 67, of Chesterfield County, Virginia, was found dead in her home on March 8, according to the police department. Her only remaining pet, a Shih Tzu mix by the name of Emma, was taken to the animal shelter to be held until the executor figured out what her owner had wanted.

Though Anita was "devoted to her four-legged friends," it appeared she did not wanted to be parted from them, even in death. Her will stipulated that her dog be interred with her. The executor of her estate picked Emma up on March 22, had her euthanized and then took the dog to a local pet cremation center. Under Virginia state law a pet cannot be "interred in the same grave, crypt, or niche" as a human, so an urn containing the dog's remains was given to the representative of Anita's estate.

Nothing the executor or the dog's owner did was illegal, though the public may see it as unethical. According to Matthew Liebman, director of litigation at the Animal Legal Defense Fund, pets are considered property, and, "As long as you're not violating cruelty law, you have a right to treat your property however you wish." However, Liebman noted that at four cases pertaining to this issue have ended up in the courts, and judges have decline to enforce such will provisions.

See N'dea Yancey-Bragg, Healthy Dog Euthanized for Burial with Owner in Virginia, USA Today, May 23, 2019.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.


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