Beliefnet
DAN HARRIS, ABC NEWS:
Visit this cemetery in Hartsdale, New York--where the tombstones bear names such as Martini, Smokey and Lucy--and you will get a sense of how many people believe their pets go to heaven.

And a sense of why.

As they prepare to cremate their dog, Linus, Cheiko Sonnenfeld and her family find great solace in the belief that the dog is in a better place.

Pet Afterlife

The Sonnenfelds will find agreement from the authors of a growing number of books on animal spirituality.


Some of whom attended a first-ever panel on the subject at the yearly Animal Rights conference last month in Washington.

JUDY CARMAN, AUTHOR:
If pets don't go to heaven and animals don't go to heaven, there probably isn't a heaven.

DAN HARRIS:
Our poll shows most pet-owners say heaven simply wouldn't be heavenly without the comfort of creatures.

PET OWNER:
If there's going to be anything that's going to heaven after life it's going to be a dog.

DAN HARRIS:
One can hope, however, that in heaven the dogs are more cooperative during fetch...and nicer to strangers.

PET OWNER:
Just look at her! How does this not have a soul?

DAN HARRIS:
While many people are convinced that their animal companions are going to heaven, the official position of most major religions--including Christianity, Judaism and Islam--is that animals do not have souls and are therefore not candidates for the afterlife.

This dogma may not play well on the dog-run...but most religious leaders believe that only humans were created in God's image...and that only humans are able to accept or reject God's teachings.

RABBI AVI SHAFRAN:
Heaven to us means just reward for good choices that were made and animals are not perceived as having free will to make choices. Heaven is something one earns, one doesn't just go to it.

DAN HARRIS:
But what about the dolphins who help lost sailors find their way? Or the gorilla who rescued a toddler at this zoo in Illinois? Or Lassie? Some call this moral choice. Others call it instinct, or training.

RABBI SHAFRAN:
Animals tend to bond with their caregivers and that's the way it should be. But that doesn't erase the distinction between the animal and their caregiver. Timmy can go to heaven, but Lassie can't.

DAN HARRIS:
Still, the scriptures do indicate that God loves all animals. After all, He created them.

And while He gave humans "dominion...over every living thing that moves upon the earth," we also have the responsibility to treat animals with respect, even reverence.

On that almost everyone can agree.

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