Medical research charity Harrison’s Fund discovered that people were more likely to donate money to help suffering dogs than humans.
The researchers published two advertisements, which both asked, “Would you give £5 to save Harrison from a slow, painful death?”
The one difference between the advertisements was the image: one featuring Harrison as a dog and the other featuring Harrison as a little boy.
They found it was Harrison the dog who received the most donations.
Another study came to a similar conclusion.
Researchers Professor Jack Levin and Professor Arnold Arluke, from Northeastern University in Boston, discovered that humans are more disturbed by stories about injured dogs than injured humans.
They created four false newspaper reports and distributed it to 240 participants.
The stories described an attack “with a baseball bat by an unknown assailant.”
“Arriving on the scene a few minutes after the attack, a police officer found the victim with one broken leg, multiple lacerations, and unconscious.”
The researchers alternated the ‘victim’ across the four editions: it was either a one-year-old baby, a 30-year-old adult, a puppy or a six-year-old adult dog.
According to the research, published in the journal Society & Animals, “respondents were significantly less distressed when adult humans were victimised, in comparison with human babies, puppies and adult dogs. Only relative to the infant victim did the adult dog receive lower scores of empathy.”
The researchers concluded that “subjects did not view their dogs as animals, but rather as ‘fur babies’, or family members alongside human children."