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When Shih Tzu Emma's owner passed away, she was put down so they could be buried together.

When Emma’s owner passed away, her life immediately changed.

Despite being a perfectly healthy Shih Tzu mix, the much-loved dog was forced to be put down, thanks to explicit instructions left in her owner’s will.

According to the will, Emma was to be put to sleep – and laid to rest – alongside her owner.

It was a situation that left shelter volunteers at Chesterfield County Animal Services in Virginia feeling helpless.

Side note – Dogs can actually tell when you’re upset. Post continues after video.

When Emma arrived at the animal shelter on March 8, volunteers tried desperately to talk the executor of the dead woman’s estate out of euthanising the healthy animal.

“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, the manager of Chesterfield Animal Services, told NBC12.

But after two weeks at the shelter, where she was pampered and showered with love by the employees, the late woman’s relatives picked up the dog. Although the shelter offered once again to find the dog a new home, the woman’s relatives refused.

“Ultimately, they came back in on March 22nd and redeemed the dog,” Carrie added.

After being picked up from the shelter, the brown and white dog was immediately taken to a vet where she was euthanised before her remains were taken to a Virginia pet cremation centre. After she was cremated, her ashes were returned to one of the woman’s relatives.

Although Virginia bans the burial of animal remains in public cemeteries, these laws do not apply to family plots or privately owned cemeteries.

Likewise, euthanising a healthy dog or cat is not illegal, as pets are considered personal property in the eyes of the law. Despite the law, however, many vets won’t do it.

Not everyone loves dogs. So when did they become equal to humans in the hierarchy? The Mamamia Out Loud Team discuss. Post continues after audio.

Speaking to NBC12, vet Dr Kenny Lucas explained that he wouldn’t euthanise a healthy pet.

“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,” he said.

“Also it’s something we take home too. It weighs on us as professionals.”

Online, the responses to the news were largely negative.

“If she really loved the dog, she would have arranged for someone to look after her and when Emma was old and died, then have the ashes placed on the grave,” one person wrote on Twitter.

“I’m horrified, overwhelmed and heartbroken by the story. It’s beyond selfish,” another wrote.

“What vet would allow this?” another asked.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments section.

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