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article imagePet Death Raises Question: Do Animals Go to Heaven? Special

By Carol Forsloff     Dec 1, 2009 in Lifestyle
A recent story in the Village Voice discusses the increasing business in pet deaths and funerals. People are attached to their pets and mourn them when they die. But what do people believe about what happens after pets death. Do they go to heaven?
The Village Voice, in writing about the pet death business, observes that the first pet cemetery was initiated in 1896. It was established by a Manhattan veterinarian by the name of Dr. Samuel Johnson. He allowed one of his friends to bury his dog in a rural apple orchard he owned, and when word got out other people asked for permission to bury their pets there as well. This cemetery, called the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery is ranked by the Lonely Planet Guide as one of the worlds 10 "best places of rest."
The report goes on to discuss how important pets are to people and why they are mourned so much. Pets are important to people in this life, and some believe they will see them after death as well and meet them in heaven. But what is the official doctrine?
The best answer for Christians, according to the voters on Answers.com is this:
The Bible does not give any explicit teaching on whether pets/animals have “souls” or whether pets/animals will be in heaven. However, we can use general biblical principles to develop some clarity on the subject. The Bible states that both man (Genesis 2:7) and animals (Genesis 1:30; 6:17; 7:15, 22) have the breath of life. The primary difference between human beings and animals is that humanity is made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27), while animals are not. Being made in the image and likeness of God means that human beings are like God, capable of spirituality, with mind, emotion, and will, and they have a part of their being that continues after death. If pets/animals do have a “soul” or immaterial aspect, it must therefore be of a different and lesser “quality.” This difference possibly means that pet/animal “souls” do not continue in existence after death.
Mind Power News tackled this issue utilizing the Lincoln Star Journal as its principal source for quotations and information. The Roman Catholic Church, according to this report, does not declare pets will go to heaven. The position is explained by Father Mark Huber who said, "We don't believe that animals have immortal souls, and therefore they can't share in eternal life. They won't be in heaven."
Islam agrees with this but takes a different approach. Mind Power News quotes Yusuf Wells, President of the Islamic Foundation of Lincoln, who said,"Our belief is that animals do have souls, but a soul which gives them animated life. But their souls are not those which are ultimately judged according to their deeds —they weren't given the same responsibility or accountability that man has."
Judaism has a belief that animals have souls but a different status in the afterlife. They won't be reunited with their owners. Rabbi Ilan Emanuel of South Street Temple is quoted as saying,"According to most traditional Jewish sources, animals do have a soul, (but) their souls don't get reunited with their owners in heaven," he said. The animal soul is at a lower level than the divine soul, which is what humans have, and it is that soul which is reunited with God in the afterlife.
But Eastern religions have an entirely different perspective. For example, there are those faiths such as Hinduism and Buddhism that believe in reincarnation. People can be reborn as animals and animals as people under some precepts held within these religions.
There are some people who believe animals have souls like people do and that they will be in heaven just like their masters. For those mourning their pets, the view is likely to be of some comfort. In fact, one troubadour sings specifically about this in a song called "I Love Dogs" where it is clear animals have a special place in his belief. His religion, Eckankar, or the Religion of Light and Sound, also believes in reincarnation but maintains that all living creatures have souls. Tim Lamar, a member of Eckankar, believes animals have souls just like people. He said, "I know animals will live on after death. In fact, I wrote a song about it." He said he likes to share the idea through his music and so did on Saturday afternoon. The music narrates his belief that animals have soul, something many people believe no matter their religion.
The Village Voice affirmed how devoted people are to their pets that the business of death has become quite a business. In the meantime religious views that are to guide people in making their decisions may be quite separate from much human behavior on the matter of pets when they die, which as pointed out in the Village Voice article surrounds the issues of mourning.
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