I then went looking for more hard data — and I found some in the research of Jack Levin (owns a Coton de Tulear, which he says looks like him) and his Northeastern University colleague, Arnie Arluke (three cats). They presented a paper last August to the American Sociological Association. Of the 240 18-to-25-year-olds sampled, more showed concern for the welfare of a dog than that of a human, but only if the person was an adult. Levin told me that when someone of a more tender age was substituted: “It’s fair to say a young child and a dog get the same amount of sympathy.” The same amount!
Levin believes it’s explained by the vulnerability or innocence of the victim, which makes sense. He further suggested that we anthropomorphize our pets, considering them part of our family. True enough, but Puppy Doe wasn’t the pet of the masses of people who rallied for her.