A new study by three North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine professors shows if you believe in an afterlife for humans, you are likely to believe in it for animals as well.

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).

What’s the biblical case for pets going to heaven? Find out in “Do Our Pets Go to Heaven?”

“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.”

“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.

WND reported on this issue in 2013, and found there are plenty of verses in Scripture indicating the presence of animals in the coming kingdom of God.

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The prophet Isaiah is famous for this future glimpse depicting people dwelling with animals, whose aggressive nature will have been reprogrammed and tamed by God in the kingdom:

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6–9)

Tom Horn, co-author of “Do Our Pets Go to Heaven” writes in a chapter of his book:

Indeed, we find that God values His living artistry so much that He even made some of the angelic beings to reflect the animal’s faces (see Revelation 4:6–8; Ezekiel 10:14). In addition to their artistic value, God loves the company of these creatures to the point that not even a tiny sparrow falls to the ground that He doesn’t account for (Matthew 10:29). Another amazing example of God’s concern for animals comes from the story of Jonah, in which it appears that the people of Nineveh were spared destruction because God wanted to have mercy on their children and animals (see Jonah 4:11)! Of course, to the delight of my wife, Nita, God is an equestrian and has already filled Heaven with lots and lots of horses (Revelation 6:2–8; 19:11; 2 Kings 6:17). His Son, Jesus, will even return someday on one such horse (Revelation 19:11–14).

But the idea that pets go to heaven or have a similar reward to obedient human servants of God is certainly not ubiquitous among faithful believers who study the Bible.

Among them is Philip Shields, a Christian speaker and online host of LightontheRock.org, who stresses there’s a clear distinction in the book of Genesis at the time animals and mankind were created.

“Elohim (God) spoke all things – including animals – into existence,” he explained. “But to mankind only did He breathe His breath into. All humans have a spirit in man, and that spirit goes back to God after our death. But not animals’ spirits.”

He cites Ecclesiastes 3:21, which states: “Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit (breath) of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?”

Shields says, “It is this spirit in man that gives us mind (Job 32:8), enabling there to be an interface with God’s spirit so we can understand godly things, which animals don’t. Animals have their own breath, ruach [in Hebrew], or spirit, but that goes back to the earth. Man is the only one that God did mouth-to-mouth on. That did not happen to hippopotamuses and alligators, or to dogs or cats. I think that’s an important distinction, that they don’t have the breath of God.”

“I’d love to think my beloved Duchess would be resurrected or something, but I don’t think so,” he added.

“And where do you draw the line? Are the bad animals – maneaters, for example – burning in hell? Is every cockroach or mongoose or tarantula up there, too, by the billions and trillions? How about the trillions of ants and mosquitoes? And if not, why not?”

Shields also asks rhetorically, “Did Christ die for animals, too? Can animals sin?”

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