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Dogs, Emotions and "Personhood"

Monday, October 14, 2013 - 4:00pm
grey and white pitbull wearing purple collar

On October 5, The New York Times published an opinion piece by Gregory Berns, a professor of neuroeconomics at Emory University, about his two-year study of brain activity in conscious pet canines. (Rest assured, no dogs were harmed: “We used only positive training methods. No sedation. No restraints. If the dogs didn’t want to be in the M.R.I. scanner, they could leave.”)

For Berns, who found that positive anticipation (of food or familiar people, etc.) stems from the same part of the brain in both humans and dogs, the study’s takeaway is “Dogs are people, too.” This leads him to question the righteousness of dogs’ current legal status: “[We] can no longer hide from the evidence. Dogs, and probably many other animals (especially our closest primate relatives), seem to have emotions just like us. And this means we must reconsider their treatment as property.”

This week the website huffingtonpost.com posted a great follow-up article that expands on the concept of “personhood” for animals and quotes the ASPCA’s own Stacy Wolf, Senior Vice President, Anti-Cruelty Group—read it here.

What Do You Think?
We want to hear your take on this debate. Should dogs be given the same legal protections as people, or is it right to continue to categorize them as “property”? In what ways have your own dogs shown you that they have emotions? Have your say in our comments section, below.


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Comments

Comments

Naila M Sanchez

Without question, animals do experience the same as humans! Our dogs and our cats talk with us, share our emotions with us, are deeply devoted to us... and we to them! God bless all animals and all the wonderful people who love them and help them!! Thank you!!

bartthegenius

We should not be arguing whether dogs (or other animals) are intelligent or emotional beings. Nor does it matter whether you call them property or not. Or whether we consider ourselves as humans to be superior species. It is all irrelevant. Animals (or any being) should not be mistreated regardless. When you embrace this mind set no longer do you need to prove their state of being or argue who is "better", it is simply because it's the right thing to do. Having power over another being is never an excuse to exploit them. When we become responsible for our actions regardless of what other beings are or do then the problem is solved.

bartthegenius

We should not be arguing whether dogs (or other animals) are intelligent or emotional beings. Nor does it matter whether you call them property or not. Or whether we consider ourselves as humans to be superior species. It is all irrelevant. Animals (or any being) should not be mistreated regardless. When you embrace this mind set no longer do you need to prove their state of being or argue who is "better", it is simply because it's the right thing to do. Having power over another being is never an excuse to exploit them. When we become responsible for our actions regardless of what other beings are or do then the problem is solved.

Kim

I do not ever want to think of them as property. God made animals when he made humans for us to take care of not to own them. I know my little dog loved me no matter what I don't think people are capable of doing that so what does that make us. Education is good to have but; having a heart is what God looks at. They do not or should not ever be considered as property.

Jackson

It doesn't matter how many studies are conducted or what our conclusions are of them--dogs, nor any other animal, are NOT property and nothing could truly justify such a stance otherwise. The idea of any living being as property is only substantiated by greed, and if you actually believe any species outside of humans to be "less than", well than you are a moron.

Kathi Backus

I agree that the laws should be changed.Animals are so much more than mere property, they are living beings that deserve love and respect. Any one who has pets knows that they have emotions.

As for Michael Vick, I don't think the time he did in prison was long enough. Dog fighting is disgusting, as is cock fighting.

We are all part of a beautiful world and need to get reconnected to it.

Susan

When we had to let go of our smooth dachshund Noah, due to cancer, my life changed. I now believe that dogs are some form of angel that we cannot identify. We received cards, e-mails, flowers and plants, just like a human passing. And, of note, is the fact that a fair amount those sending condolences do not even have dogs!

Barry

They definitely have emotions. I have 3 dogs and had 3 rescues for years now. When I leave, one of them waits on the bottom stair sometimes for hours until I return, even if my wife is home. They get excited when you look at them and want to come and give you a kiss. They love to play among themselves, but will leave to play with you whenever you are available. The wake up in the morning and greet you as if you've been gone for weeks. They feel your vibes and exhibit the appropriate behavior if you're sad, or happy, or busy or ready to play.
Only those who don't have dogs, or those who do, but actually view them as property no different than a couch or car are incapable of understanding these emotions.

Barry

They definitely have emotions. I have 3 dogs and had 3 rescues for years now. When I leave, one of them waits on the bottom stair sometimes for hours until I return, even if my wife is home. They get excited when you look at them and want to come and give you a kiss. They love to play among themselves, but will leave to play with you whenever you are available. The wake up in the morning and greet you as if you've been gone for weeks. They feel your vibes and exhibit the appropriate behavior if you're sad, or happy, or busy or ready to play.
Only those who don't have dogs, or those who do, but actually view them as property no different than a couch or car are incapable of understanding these emotions.

Tim

to say that dogs and other sentient life are property infers that they have the same legal status as a lawn mower. Just because dogs experience and perceive emotion differently than humans makes them no less valid. Patricia McConnell's book, "For the Love of a Dog," explores the emotional lives of our dogs and great detail and is should be required reading for the skeptics who still believe that these animals live life from the brain stem. Love is in short supply in this world. Why deny it's existence this and other emotions in dogs when it is expressed so clearly -- and in the case of love -- so unconditionally.

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