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Scientist Says, ‘Dogs Are People, Too’

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Scientist Says, ‘Dogs Are People, Too’

Recently the New York Times published an article by Gregory Berns, a professor of neuroeconomics at Emory University.

The article was titled “Dogs Are People, Too” and addressed the research that Berns and his colleagues have been conducting over the past two years. In the study that Berns referenced, dogs were basically trained to get into an M.R.I scanner (no sedation or restraints) and stay motionless for short periods of time (with earmuffs on to block the sound of the M.R.I.). The dog’s brains were then scanned and their activity analyzed.

Berns and his team were attempting to understand how a dog’s brain works and what they think about us humans. Their work also reflected on a dog’s capacity for emotions and thus sentience. If you’ve ever had a friendship with a dog you won’t be surprised by Berns’ conclusion. His reaction: “dogs are people, too.”

Berns suggested that dogs have emotions similar to ours and thus they ”may be” sentient and entitled to certain rights not attributed to ”things” or ”property.”

This statement was made in part because of new information about the “caudate nucleus” (a region of the brain found in both dogs and humans) gleaned through this study:

“…Many of the same things that activate the human caudate, which are associated with positive emotions, also activate the dog caudate. Neuroscientists call this a functional homology, and it may be an indication of canine emotions.

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.”

Whenever findings such as these come out I have to admit I feel a bit conflicted. On some level I’m glad that people are taking note of our fellow animals’ sentience, but then on another level (no matter how nice the test) I have to shake my head at the fact that it takes scientific testing for them to learn this. I am also left with a lot of questions …

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Read more: Animal Rights, Behavior & Communication, Dogs, Life, Nature, News & Issues, Pets, Vegan, Vegetarian,

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Alisa Rutherford-Fortunati

Gentle World is a vegan intentional community and non-profit organization, whose core purpose is to help build a more peaceful society, by educating the public about the reasons for being vegan, the benefits of vegan living, and how to go about making such a transition. For more information about vegan food and other aspects of a vegan lifestyle, visit the Gentle World website and subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

633 comments

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2:16AM PST on Jan 26, 2014

interesting

2:14AM PST on Jan 26, 2014

ok first of all, animals are not self -aware as to the fact that they are going to die. Also Ihave seen animals be very aggressive and kill other animals.

So .... we are all animals. some of us suck, some don't. Humans, for some reason know right from wrong in some cases, in other situations do we revert to being animals?

2:07AM PST on Jan 26, 2014

no. They are not people. nope.

3:35AM PST on Jan 3, 2014

Thanks

8:58PM PST on Nov 30, 2013

ty

10:27PM PST on Nov 16, 2013

I agree with the fact that our heart and conscience already knows that dogs, cats, horses, chickens, and such are capable of emotions including love. I remember a fifth grade boy that use to come to school with his pet hen. He loved that chicken and that chicken loved to have him hold her. She would squat and walk in a small circle clucking until he would pick her up. There she sat very content in his arm or lap.

3:39PM PST on Nov 16, 2013

Anyone who has ever had a dog, or cat, will tell you they are so much better than humans. They are loving, kind, and do not do the horrible things we humans do. We should all be more like them, this world would be a much better place.

11:11PM PDT on Oct 29, 2013

Thanks for the article. I believe Berns research is a big accomplishment. It also makes you wonder how did Bulgakov came up with his classic "Heart of a Dog" 3/4 century ago. The author seems biased against doing research on animals. I disagree.

12:00AM PDT on Oct 26, 2013

Thank you ~ I thought that this was an excellently-written article.
Agree with : "Are we going to have to rigorously test every species of animal on the planet before we decide they deserve the right to life and liberty (or whatever form of liberty their level of domestication permits)?"

The vast majority of animals are far advanced being than all those humans who hunt them, are cruel to them, cage them, make them perform tricks, and also eat them.

11:35AM PDT on Oct 25, 2013

Thanks for the article.

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