A dog was euthanized so it could be buried with its owner. You responded en masse.

October 9, 2019
dvm360 Staff

Back in May 2019, CNN ran an article that quickly went viral. When we shared it on the dvm360 Facebook page, readers had a lot to say.

In late May 2019, CNN.com published an article headlined, “A healthy dog was euthanized so it could be buried with its owner.” It detailed the story of Emma, a healthy shih tzu euthanized by a veterinarian in Chesterfield, Virginia, on March 22, according to the wishes of her deceased owner. 

The story quickly went viral on social media, with thousands of pet owners, veterinary professionals as well as shelter and rescue workers chiming in with opinions on the controversy.

When dvm360.com shared the story on our Facebook page, followers had similarly intense reactions. We selected a handful of insights from readers in the profession to highlight the different perspectives on this case and to continue the valuable conversation around  euthanasia of healthy animals.

Here are highlights:

“I do not begrudge a dying person who wishes to have their pets euthanized. Everyone processes grief (including the end of their own life) differently. When you are powerless [over] your circumstances, I think it might give these owners some comfort knowing these animals won't suffer without their care. Misguided? Maybe. But animal lives are not human lives, and animals have no expectation for the length of their lives either. I think it's important to be gentle with the good intentions, fear, and overall decent outcome in these cases (there are worse fates than death, after all).”

Carla Dawn, DVM

“I probably wouldn't agree to do it ... but there are worse things than a humane death.”

Ashley Peterson Dunn, DVM

“None of us know the whole story here and any wider debate should not accuse a dead person (who therefore can't defend themselves) of selfishness nor attack the vet who carried out the euthanasia, as I am sure they did not make the decision lightly.”

Vicki Payne, DVM

“I'm probably going to receive a lot of hate for this, but we have THOUSANDS of pets that are homeless and shelters overflowing. Maybe the family members didn't have the time or financial means to provide care for this animal, or maybe it was willed by the owner. I don't agree with euthanasia of a healthy animal, but there are definitely exceptions, and this case definitely could've been one.”

Ally West, veterinary assistant

“What a selfish human being to demand that their pet be killed when they die. The human is dead and will not gain a single thing from the pet being buried with them. If the pet is generally healthy, or even has health issues that are manageable, then there is no just cause to kill the dog. Period. My dog is 17 years old with a number of health issues, but they are all manageable and she has great quality of life. If I died today there would be no reason to euthanize her. No one should have complied with the request, from the family members to the veterinarian. …

“I am an RVT and worked in practice for 25+ years. I worked for a couple of different practices with varying styles of medicine. My earliest experience before becoming a RVT was at a clinic that would regularly perform on-demand euthanasias for clients' or nonclients' animals. As long as they had a reasonable reason/claim/purpose, the vet would do it. And by reasonable, I mean any excuse and the money to pay the bill. I was in high school and had zero experience so I thought this was normal and acceptable. After becoming an RVT and working for a really good hospital with excellent standards, morals and values, I still to this day reflect back on my time at that first clinic with horror, trauma, embarrassment, shame and regret for all the things that we did but shouldn't have, and didn't do but should have."

Lisa Henderson, RVT

“It's hard to judge this harshly in a world where millions of healthy pets are euthanized annually. Better to go peacefully than to go through the trauma of homelessness and either get euthanized anyway or take the home from another pet who will be euthanized. It's silly to project human values onto a dog. It already lived a life of love. If all pets had homes, I'd have a different answer.”

Jennifer Boudreaux, DVM

“I've refused to do this. I have to be the patient's advocate first.”

Amy Blanchard Cottrille, DVM