Any caring dog companion cannot deny the special, human bond they share with their furry friend. However, when it comes to the legal system, dogs, along with other domesticated animals, are treated much like property. Research over the past few decades has worked to prove that animals, in particular mammals, share many of the emotions of humans.
In one recent study, dogs were trained to go into an M.R.I. scanner without anesthesia to be able to explore their emotional brain activity. The dogs that participated in the study were treated like humans from the beginning (their owners had to sign a consent form like a child’s and if the dogs showed signs of disinterest they were no longer made to participate) and no negative reinforcement was used. The findings were positive and give further evidence that dogs, and probably other mammals, are creatures with emotions:
In dogs, we found that activity in the caudate increased in response to hand signals indicating food. The caudate also activated to the smells of familiar humans. And in preliminary tests, it activated to the return of an owner who had momentarily stepped out of view. [...] 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.
The full article can be read on the The New York Times.