Dog owner dies, requests pet be euthanized for their burial together

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A Fargo man who recently died had one final request – that his dog Paco be buried with him.

But Paco was still alive, prompting a question: Should owners be allowed to have healthy pets put down so they can walk into the afterlife together?

The Fargo man's funeral was set for Friday, and his friends planned to honor his wishes, Valley News Live reported.

The man's friends said the dog was ailing, but neighbors in the man's building said the animal was healthy, and they were saddened by the news.

"We all at this high rise love that dog, so much, it's a beautiful dog, and all day long we have been trying to save that dog's life, that dog is healthy, we can't understand ... Is it legal to euthanize a healthy dog, that's been our question," one neighbor told the station.

It is legal. Fargo Animal Control officials told the station that it is common for people to request in their wills that pets be euthanized upon an owner's death, and the practice is legal under North Dakota law, which says pets are considered property.

Minnesota law is similar in that pets are considered property, the Minnesota Humane Society's Linda Challeen said. But she said she did not think it was common for healthy pets to be euthanized for burial with owners.

"I would think that many veterinarians would not be comfortable performing that service," she told BringMeTheNews.

More often, pets of deceased owners are passed to family members, who might take the animals in or pass them to shelters, Challeen said.

Jeff Moravec, communications director for the Animal Humane Society in Minnesota, said he had not heard of people in Minnesota euthanizing healthy pets for burial with an owner, and he said the organization would "highly discourage" it.

A 2010 NBC story notes that stories of people euthanizing pets for burial with owners, while startling, are not an anomaly. It notes the case of one dog owner buried with what had been his beloved healthy 2-year-old Yorkshire terrier.

Not all states allow pets to be buried with owners.

“Most states are either silent on the issue or they have very specific laws that they don’t allow it,” Poul Lemasters, a funeral industry lawyer told the Washington Post earlier this year.

Scott Smith, a spokesman with the Minnesota Department of Health, told BringMeTheNews that agency officials were not aware of any Minnesota laws that either encourage or discourage being buried with a pet. He added that cemeteries often have governing boards that discuss these sorts of issues and develop their own burial policies, so it might vary by cemetery.

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