We could start a theological debate on what is required for a soul to gain eternal life in heaven; and do animals have a soul. Some will say that yes, all animals do have a soul, and therefore animals can go to heaven. Others will contend that animals may have a certain kind of consciousness, but not a soul and therefore cannot have an eternal life in heaven.
But to those who believe that animals do not go to heaven, I would remind them of what Sacred Scripture says.
“The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:6-9)
That statement certainly does not describe our existence here on earth.
But in order for me to give my opinion on the question as to whether or not there are animals in heaven, I first need to refer to the fundamental reasons of why we are all here in the first place.
Number one, we are here to learn. “A wise man will hear and increase in learning.” (Proverbs 1:5) And, “Apply your heart to discipline. And your ears to words of knowledge.” (Proverbs 23:12)
Secondly, each and every one of us have been created for a purpose. That was made clear to us in Sacred Scripture in the life of the very first man that our God created. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” (Genesis 2:15) In fact, everything and everyone in God’s creation was created for a purpose. “The Lord has made everything for its purpose.” (Proverbs 16:4)
And most importantly, we are here to learn how to love. We have been given this precious gift of life in order to give us the opportunity of perfecting the art of loving unconditionally. “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)
Our God is Love. That is who our God is.“God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:16) And our Lord and Savior Jesus is God’s love made manifest in the human flesh. Scripture tells us that love never dies. “Love is eternal.” (1 Corinthians 13:8)
We are given many opportunities in this life that provide us with the opportunity of learning how to love. Anyone who has ever had a pet knows, first hand, the bond of love that exists between a pet owner and their pet. And the love that we have for our pets is returned to us a hundred-fold by the love and devotion that our pets give to us. I firmly believe that our pets are God’s gift to us that further our education on learning how to love.
God is love. Therefore, all love reveals the character of who and what our God is. By our faith in the teachings of our Lord Jesus, we believe that the life and love of our departed loved ones will exist for all eternity in the heavenly life promised to us by our Lord and Savior, Jesus. And since love never dies, wouldn’t it be logical to assume that the life and love of our departed pets would also live for all eternity?
I have read many books and stories of people who have died, been resuscitated, and have returned to life with reports of having had a near-death experience. In addition to describing the unimaginable beauty of the paradise that they visited, the vast majority of the people who report having had a near-death experience also report meeting both departed loved ones and deceased beloved pets. And those near-death experiences always have a dramatic effect on the people who have had that experience. “The aftereffects on the people who have had a near-death experience are always significant. Most come back believing that love and learning are what God wants of us, and they find themselves adjusting their lives to those mandates.” (The Case for Heaven, by Mally Cox-Chapman)
So yes, I believe that the pets that we have known and loved here on earth will exist for all eternity. Since love never dies, the souls of our departed loved ones and the souls of the furry four-legged beloved members of our family will also live forever.
Even Pope Francis stated his belief on animals going to heaven. “One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.” (Pope Francis speaking in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Dec. 10, 2014.)
Here is just a sampling of some of those near-death experiences that report meeting with departed pets.
Michael said, “As I raised my head up from the ground to look around, I saw my deceased dog from my childhood bounding towards me. I remember exclaiming her name at the top of my lungs as I saw her bounding towards me. It was overwhelmingly wonderful. I felt completely at peace and totally happy. I was so excited to see her again, and I did not question the experience at the time. It was as if she had never died and she had always been waiting for me to wake up from my nap in the grass. The thought ‘Why is my dead dog here?’ never occurred to me. The thought ‘Where am I and why am I laying in this field of grass?’ never occurred to me. Everything was simply as it was supposed to be.” (Life after Life, by Dr. Raymond Moody and Dr. Kenneth Ring)
“When Pat was 7 years old, he fell from a fishing bridge into a lagoon below. He struck his head on a rock at the bottom of the pond and nearly drowned. Professional rescuers had difficulty finding a pulse; his heart had ceased beating, and he had stopped breathing. The little boy died but was later revived and reported having the following experience. Pat found himself in a dark, black tunnel in which his two deceased pets, a cat and a dog, appeared to him. The former family cat brushed against his leg, and his dog licked his face, sending Pat back to his body.” (Pediatric Near-Death Experiences, by William J. Serdahely, Ph.D.)
A ten-year-old who “died” in a judo accident said, “My pet dog Skippy was there. Skippy had died some years earlier and was the only ‘person’ that I had any real family connection with that was dead. I was overwhelmed with joy and love and embraced my dog.” (Imagine Heaven, by John Burke page 311)
A child named Lynn, at age thirteen underwent open-heart surgery and afterward reported having the following near-death experience. “From the light came two dogs of mine. One was a collie named Mimi who had died three years previously from an infection, and the other was a boxer named Sam who had died two years before after being hit by a car. The dogs came running and jumped on me and kissed my face with their tongues. Their tongues weren’t wet, and I felt no weight when they jumped on me. The dogs seemed to glow from a light that was inside them. I recall saying to myself, ‘Thank you, God, for letting my dogs be alive.’ I hugged my dogs as tight as I could. I then called my dogs and together we started walking toward the light. All colors were in the light and it was warm, a living thing, and there were people as far as the eye could see, and they were glowing with an inner light – just like my dogs. In the distance I could see fields, hills, and a sky.” (NDE posted by Kevin William, posted on September 20, 2019)
So yes, I believe, as Pope Francis said, that Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures and, therefore, the pets that we have known and loved here on earth will be in Heaven with us for all eternity.