College Prof: Dogs are People

Gregory Berns, a professor of neuroeconomics at Emory University, wrote a piece in The New York Times saying that after studying dogs brains for a while he's willing to say "Dogs are People." Yup.
The ability to experience positive emotions, like love and attachment, would mean that dogs have a level of sentience comparable to that of a human child. And this ability suggests a rethinking of how we treat dogs.

DOGS have long been considered property. Though the Animal Welfare Act of 1966 and state laws raised the bar for the treatment of animals, they solidified the view that animals are things — objects that can be disposed of as long as reasonable care is taken to minimize their suffering.

But now, by using the M.R.I. to push away the limitations of behaviorism, 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.

One alternative is a sort of limited personhood for animals that show neurobiological evidence of positive emotions. Many rescue groups already use the label of “guardian” to describe human caregivers, binding the human to his ward with an implicit responsibility to care for her. Failure to act as a good guardian runs the risk of having the dog placed elsewhere. But there are no laws that cover animals as wards, so the patchwork of rescue groups that operate under a guardianship model have little legal foundation to protect the animals’ interest.

If we went a step further and granted dogs rights of personhood, they would be afforded additional protection against exploitation. Puppy mills, laboratory dogs and dog racing would be banned for violating the basic right of self-determination of a person.
You see, humans are no different than animals. We're all just animals. Humans are no different that dogs.

*subhead*Human exceptionalism.*subhead*


  1. No dogs are not people. OUR responsibility to God as people made in His image and with a job to do tending His Garden is the greater. People are stewards of the Garden; yes, as the article mentions, we are guardians. Therefore we have much to answer for in how we treat our fellow living members of God's Creation.

    Having worked for a veterinarian and volunteered for an animal shelter, I have little patience with a so-called "good Christian" who excuses their neglect or cruelty with: "It's only...a dog, a cat, a bird, a horse..." That is a Christian I would not trust with my needs were I someday blind or lame or in any way in need.

  2. So should we make dogs (not puppies) responsible for their behavior, instead of their owners?

  3. Bevc, that seems unfair. I'm not saying neglect or cruelty is right, but to just assume that they would care poorly for a human doesn't seem fair. Pets are overly pampered in our society, so to some people, a minimum standard of care could easily be conflated as abuse or neglect by the more fanatical. Is it abuse to not provide premium food and treats? To not make a doggie nursery as some people do? Some would say so. Surely, food, water, and medical attention is important, but if one refuses to call their pets their children and treat them as such, are they guilty of being bad owners? There are some who would say this is true. But, not falling into this societal standard does not equate to being capable of HUMAN neglect.

  4. It´s the other way round. Charlotte Iserbyte tried to tell the Americans for years that their goverment did indeed see them as dogs using operant conditioning to train them in schools. This happens since decades.
    The slogan is: Redefining man as animal. She really opened my eyes, I owe a lot to her. It´s completly the same here in Germany.

    [EXCELLENT video] Charlotte Iserbyt: The Miseducation of America — Charlotte found documents that show the federal government and tax exempt foundations have been changing the education system from fundamental academic study to what amounts to operant conditioning dog training to bring us into the Marxist one-world government system!

  5. If we are defined as no more than animals, or rather, that animals are equal to us, it is much more reasonable to "put us down" when we grow beyond use.

  6. I appreciate that this is just a side issue compared to the larger misunderstanding of personhood, but I am amazed at his conclusion that dog races should be banned. His thesis is that dogs are people so we must ban dog racing. Why? Because we also ban human racing? Perhaps someone should tell that to the International Olympic Committee.

  7. Before we get onto the usual anti Professor or anti academe mantra...which, is oddly absent this time...thank goodness. Id just like to say, we arent all like that. THere are many non preofessors and non academics who cry over chopped down trees and that fish arent read their miranda rights before being eaten. You never hear me whine about non professors who do stupid things.

    Dangit! I was all ready for this too and thankfully noone is criticizing professors. Well done. Not sure what to say here.

    Oh, and I love dogs. Have had them since childhood. Awesome creatures. They arent people. Thats probably why we enjoy their company.

  8. Man is a sovereign person because he has free will, and a rational, immortal human soul. When dogs can think, reason, invent music and have a rational, immortal human soul, then dogs might be considered soverign persons, until then, dogs will be dogs.
    I did not read the whole article. IsThe Times serious? "Unless you honor me, I will make of you a "no people"" America is truly going to the dogs.

  9. And puppies are to be protected but not preborn humans....

  10. Hey, they tried it with gorillas, chimpanzees, and dolphins on the basis of IQ. Nobody really got onboard. So, now they try it with dogs on the basis of emotions. Seems to fit with this particular age.

  11. In reply to ME:) You are putting words in my mouth and setting up straw men arguments to knock down. I said nothing about nursery rooms for dogs, expensive foods nor calling them "children". What I saw working for the vet as a young woman and what I have seen still happening volunteering years after that job, puts the lie to "pets are overly pampered". You folks see an article on some celeb's Maltese or see a wealthy woman buying gourmet dog food and assume this is the life of the majority of canines. As an actress, I know that most Americans have no clue that Hollywood "actors" with fantastic salaries are less than 1% of my vocation. The same is true of how most dogs and cats are treated in contrast to the appearance that they are all dining on gourmet treats and sleeping warm, safe and loved.

    I restate that neglect and often deliberate cruelty I have seen here in Chi town shelter admissions makes me ashamed and saddened to read Genesis and know how much we have failed to honor His Creation. Some of my fellow Catholics remind me of a petulant child demanding that Dad tell her He loves her best and expecting this to excuse her wreteched misbehavior toward her siblings.

    Dogs are NOT humans. They along with each part of God's world deserve to be respected for the unique beings they are, their service to mankind, their loyalty and loving natures and their ability to forgive horrid treatment and start again.
    St. Francis and St. Hubert pray for us.
    Bev C Blessed to Be Nikki's Human

  12. Well, maybe it's just where I live, but I constantly see dogs being called someone's baby or child, ridiculous amounts of money being spent on all kinds of unnecessary dog junk (collars, treats, beds, clothes!), dogs in strollers, dogs needing to go everywhere that humans do, etc. It grosses me out. We have a dog, but he is a dog. I am not his mama (as both the vet and groomer refer to me- barf!) So, I apologize, but I feel like part of why we get away with the culture of death is that some people have filled that very real hole in their hearts where children should be, with doggie "children". Why have more than 1.8 kids when you can just get multiple dogs over the years. I can see some of these types considering a normal standard of care as neglect, hence my comments. I do not live in Hollywood, but I'm surrounded by people who go overboard in the doggie arena. In my part of the world, it's not a straw man, it's a sad reality.

  13. @Me :) I believe that you are correct in your assessment of dogs and our culture of death.

  14. By collars, treats and beds, I'm referring to extremely expensive plush things, as if basic wouldn't do.

  15. I survived a child hood among the Celtic Druids of Chicago's South Side aka Irish catholics. When they weren't abusing animals they were beating up on the little "polack retard" as they referred to poor Donnie. Homes with 8, 13, 15 children whose parents thought they were better Catholics than those "dagoes" with the 2 girls. Well my parents gave us 2 girls a sense of family and plenty of love and attention. We are still close while some of those 15.8 children families have sibling who no longer speak to one another, ignore the needs of their aged parents, are 3x divorced, shacking up, drug users and having bastard children they expect hard working "dago" girls such as I to support with my tax money. Tired of hearing hagiographic descriptions of fine big families. Save it for someone who does not have first hand knowledge of the inhabitants of Chicago's SW side.

    Neglectful of their dogs to the point of abuse and not so hot with their darling little Seamus and Siobhan's either!

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