Exploring belief in an animal afterlife

August 3, 2016 by Jordan Bartel, North Carolina State University
Credit: North Carolina State University

A personal belief in an afterlife for humans is likely to shape belief in an animal afterlife, according to a study by three North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine professors.

In the study titled "Do All Dogs Go to Heaven?" Clinical Science professors Kenneth D. Royal, April A. Kedrowicz and Amy M. Snyder found that of the participants who believed in human afterlife, 73 percent also believed in animal afterlife.

Of the 800 research participants, the groups more likely to believe in the existence of an afterlife for animals are females (51 percent), American Indian/Alaska natives (71.4 percent), African-Americans (58.5 percent), Buddhists (77.3 percent), people living in the South (50.3 percent) and pet owners (45 percent).

"The notion of the human-animal bond is pervasive in the United States," said Dr. Royal. "Yet, Americans are incredibly diverse in terms of their backgrounds, experiences and views. We wanted to explore this issue further by investigating the role that one's religious views might have in understanding this relationship and the value of pets."

The study, set to be published in August in the journal Anthrozoos, is believed to be the first to systematically explore American's beliefs about animal afterlife using a national sample of participants.

Another notable finding: Of 12 different animals presented to the research participants, dogs, cats and horses were rated the most likely to experience an afterlife. Those rated least likely: insects, fish and reptiles.

While the study found widespread belief in an animal afterlife, participants were less certain when asked whether animals have souls: 16 percent stated "definitely no," 16.7 percent stated "probably no" and 19.5 percent were "unsure," compared with 25.8 who stated "probably yes" and 22 percent who said "definitely yes."

Such findings could help guide veterinarians in their interactions with .

"Spirituality and beliefs about animals, including animal afterlife, undoubtedly impact what clients think, how clients feel and what decisions they make," said Dr. Kedrowicz. "So veterinarians should explore and acknowledge client perspectives to build trust and actively engage them in the process of animal care.

"This requires an open approach to communication where the veterinarian asks clients to provide their perspectives with a focused attention to really listening and exploring client meanings and intentions."

Explore further: Beliefs about the soul and afterlife that we acquire as children stick with us, whether we know it or not

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Aug 03, 2016
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1 / 5 (1) Aug 03, 2016
an open approach to communication where the veterinarian asks clients to provide their perspectives with a focused attention to really listening and exploring client meanings and intentions.

Listening to the client. Huh. Sounds like a good method for communication between any type of service providers and clients. They should write a book, call it something like "How to Win Friends and Influence People."
3.4 / 5 (5) Aug 03, 2016
Well this would only work in cultures where people come back as animals. And then of course there would be an animal afterlife, but it would be in the form of yet another animal, hopefully a domesticated one with a name.

Or some similar rubbish.

Consider that humans are most likely the only animals that know they will eventually grow old and die. For many of them this makes an afterlife imperative, and so its invention was inevitable because it is worth a great deal. But for any dog, cat, horse, or parakeet the notion is pretty worthless.
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 03, 2016
Perhaps a new section should be added to phys.org for those that love a god or profess to follow a god. I mean lamb's blood and the death angel and all that stuff would be in that new section. This would allow the rest of us to not have to close our eyes and wince - knowing the trolls will set their bait and the knee jerks are obligated to kick out.

Perhaps phys.org would name the new section: Faith and Hope!
3 / 5 (2) Aug 04, 2016
@greenonions: No problem as I am an atheist. I commented, also, out of respect to those that still have "faith and hope." Those are the 2 most lame reasons to believe in a god, imho. Yes, I have read the stats of the declining xtians within the USA, that makes me happy. Let learning and logic drive away the idiocy, opps, sorry those beliefs.
Thanks, for the reply, as for the main point: I do not have to read the comments. I generally read them, or part of them until the believers take over. The amount of comments arguing who is right about a god, or gods is what I would like to see diverted into their own section. Simple, non-science in the non-science area.
I've even had to ask Google News to create a Religion news section so we don't have to see entries for schedules of church service times - ya those are real news stories, NOT!
Aug 08, 2016
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