London - Many people will show more empathy for a battered dog than a battered human.
We are, it seems, moved the most by the suffering of puppies and children - and researchers are trying to find out why.
A study has found that while puppies and children were the most emotive subjects, dogs elicited more empathy than abused humans.
Researchers say this is down to a perception of vulnerability.
Professor Jack Levin and Professor Arnold Arluke, from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, examined the opinions of 240 people who received one of four fictional news articles.
One concerned the beating of a one-year-old child and a second an adult in his 30s. The other two were about a puppy or a six-year-old dog being abused.
The difference in empathy between child and puppy was “statistically non-significant”. But the dog garnered more feeling than the adult.
Professor Levin told the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association: “The fact adult human crime victims receive less empathy than do child, puppy, and full-grown dog victims suggests adult dogs are regarded as dependent and vulnerable not unlike their younger canine counterparts and kids.
“In addition, it appears that adult humans are viewed as capable of protecting themselves while full-grown dogs are just seen as larger puppies.”
Professor Levin reckoned findings would be similar for cats. He said: “These are animals to which many individuals attribute human characteristics.” - Daily Mail