THREE-QUARTERS of pet owners in the United States who believe in an afterlife believe that their animals go there too, a survey has suggested.
In the study Do All Dogs Go to Heaven?, carried out for Anthrozoös, the journal of the International Society for Anthrozoology, in California, dogs, cats, and horses were rated the most likely to experience an afterlife, whereas insects, fish, and reptiles were rated the least likely.
About 70 per cent of households in the United States own pets, and the research, in which 800 participants were surveyed, suggested that women, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Black and African Americans, Buddhists, and residents of southern states were more likely to believe in an animal afterlife. But only 59 per cent of all the owners believed in a human afterlife.
Dr Kenneth Royal, of North Carolina State University, who led the research, said: “Although more pet owners believed in an animal afterlife than non-pet owners, a large number of owners did not believe in an afterlife for pets.
“We speculate that this is likely related to the fact that almost half of our sample claimed to have no specific religious beliefs or faith. It could also point to the importance of cultural traditions and inherited preconceptions towards beliefs about animals over actual animal experiences like pet ownership.”
The report suggested that the findings might explain the backlash on social media in recent years surrounding highly publicised cases of animal killings. “Although there is clear variation in beliefs between people of different demographics, a significant number of people do believe that animal lives really are every bit as sacred as their own”, it said.
The chairwoman of the Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals, the Revd Dr Helen Hall, said: “In reality, there is nothing new or strange about the idea that animals have a place in God’s Kingdom. Scripture teaches that Jesus came to bring redemption and healing to the whole of Creation: see, for example, Romans 8.19-21, and John 3.16.
“Furthermore, we can reason from first principles that animals must have an afterlife. We believe in a loving and just God. How could a loving and just God create sentient beings able to think and feel, then condemn them to share in the suffering of this present world, without permitting them a share in the joy of the world to come?”