#145 All Dogs Go to Heaven

the christian economist dave arnott

#145 All Dogs Go to Heaven

“Pets as children” violates the Christian Worldview.  Humans should spend more of their scarce time with other humans, rather than pets.


Something I wanted to say to Dennis Prager during the fireside chat, when his dog Otto was sleeping between us, “All dogs may go to heaven, but taxes don’t.”  You see, the Christian purpose of taxes is to protect us from evil in a fallen world.  In heaven, there won’t be a fallen nature, so we won’t need taxes.



70% of American households own a pet.  Americans spend about $123.6 billion in 2021, up 19% in just the last year!  Wow, a 19% increase in one year!  Giving to church and parachurch organizations is stuck around $115 billion, up a paltry 1% in the last eight years, according to Christianity Today.  While pet spending has more than doubled in the same time period.  Somethings going on here.  Why are people spending so much on pets?  I like pets.  I’m merely seeking a clear Biblical answer about the Christian Economics of pet ownership. 

In recent years, Americans have spent more money buying Halloween costumes for their pets than the amount given to reach the unreached, reports Andrew Scott, president of Operation Mobilization U.S.

45% of American pet owners spend the same amount or more on their pets’ healthcare as they do their own healthcare.  


The Christian Worldview

When God created animals, he declared their creation to be “good” in Genesis 1:25.  At the conclusion of the creation account in Genesis 1, God looked at “all he had made” and declared it “very good.”  Humans are the crowning achievement of God’s creative activity, and as His image bearers, we possess something of the divine.  For more on that topic, I will refer you to podcast #32 Made in God’s Image.  

Humans are made above animals.  When I was a child, one of my aunts traveled cross-country with her small dog.  I remember watching her buy a McDonald’s hamburger, and giving the meat to her dog.  I was horrified.  I still have that picture in my mind.  She wasted human food on a dog.  But that’s common practice today.   

Elena Kadvany reports for the San Francisco Chronicle about a dog restaurant in her town where owners can buy a $75 tasting menu for their dogs.  She writes, “Dogue, which opened last week with a $75 tasting menu and French-inspired pastries just for dogs, feels emblematic of  everything wrong with San Francisco right now — a place where dogs are treated better than humans.”  “This signals the collapse,” one Instagram commenter wrote.

Albert Wolters explains it well in his book Creation Regained, “He put the planets in their orbits, makes the seasons come and go at the proper time, makes seeds grow and animals reproduce, but entrusts to mankind the tasks of making tools, doing justice, producing art, and pursuing scholarship.” In other words, God’s rule of law is IMMEDIATE in the nonhuman realm but MEDIATE in culture and society. In the human realm men and women become coworkers with God; as creatures made in God’s image they too have a kind of lordship over the earth, are God’s viceroys in creation.  Humans can only do this because they are free to make a conscious choice.  Animals can’t make the choice to accept or reject God’s invitation of salvation. 

Here’s what Wolters means by “immediate in the nonhuman realm.”  It means, animals don’t have a choice.  They are driven by food and reproduction.  I know, B.F. Skinner says the same thing about humans, but as Ginger would say, “He’s all jacked-up.”  We are MORE than our environment.  That’s the whole theme of Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl.  After surviving Dachau and Auschwitz, he wrote, “It is one of the basic tenets of logotherapy, that man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure or avoid pain, but rather to see meaning in his life.”  Animals only seek pleasure or avoid pain.  Humans seek meaning.  Mr. Frankl continues, “It becomes clear that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of (concentration) camp influences alone. Any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him: Mentally and spiritually.”  Animals can not decide what becomes of them. 

Theologists would point out that animals are not transcendent.  Psychologists differentiate humans from animals by saying that humans are conscious, or have a conscience. 

The Insurance Information Institute says the total number of pets insured in the US is now 3.9 million, a 28% increase in just the last year.  The largest percentage of insured pets live in CA and NY.  Interesting, those are the states that are losing the most population, according to my podcast #131 Abraham and Wealth Migration; so the Christian Economist is asking this question: are pets replacing people?    


Pets as Children

My podcast #134 is titled Be Fruitful and Multiply.  Maybe people are “having pets” instead of having children.  Children are messy.  They disagree with you, they talk back, they don’t do what they’re told.  So much better to have an obedient, playful, loyal pet, who never disagrees with you, never stays out late, never mis-uses your credit card.

An article in Fortunly, the online magazine, says that 11% of respondents to their survey said that because of pet care, they were putting off having kids or more children.  Other commonly missed milestones included delaying marriage and buying a house.  OK, just simple long-term thinking here, or what economists would call “durable goods,” because pets are not durable and children are.  Psalm 127 says children are a heritage from the Lord, and that offspring are a reward from him.  It doesn’t say that about pets.    

Shane Morris writing in the Federalist opines, “For many in my generation who are also approaching 30, children (and the ideal prerequisite for children, marriage), are still out of the question because they’re too expensive, too time-consuming, and might cramp their style. Those nurturing instincts don’t go anywhere, though. A disturbing number of young adults are directing them toward substitutes—dogs and cats.”   Morris is convinced that psychology manuals 200 years from now will identify “replacement-baby syndrome” as a diagnosable epidemic in her generation.  I won’t wait 200 years.  According to the Christian Economist, it is a non-Biblical use of resources today. 

For an unbelievable number of millennials, pets’ original purpose—to be shaggy companions —has been superseded by a role they were never intended to fill: replacement child.  Terms like “fur-babies,” might be acceptable, but people are now calling their pets “children, kids, girls, boys, or sons and daughters.”

Kids cost about $310,000 to raise.  That’s about $17,000 a year.   Maybe pet owners are making an economic decision.  The American Kennel Club reports a cost of just over $2,500 for raising a small dog, and $3,500 for a giant breed.


Opportunity cost:

One of Dennis Prager’s favorite ethics questions is to change up the life-boat survival question to read, “If you could save only one, would it be a human stranger or your dog?”  He is horrified at how many people choose their dog.  “Because I know and love my dog!” Is the most common apologetic. 

John Piper gives his economic analysis of pet ownership, “If you had no pet, would that time be devoted to more refreshing, more encouraging, more edifying, more loving, more God-glorifying tasks? That is the question.” He’s right: The time spent on pets could be spent on humans.  Which would God prefer?

People who spend this much time and money on their pets, not only lose the economic impact that could be spent on the poor, homeless, and other truly needy entities.  The pet OWNER loses the ability to share his/her human life with another human.  Time is an important economic concept.  It’s scarce.  How we use it makes a difference: To our fellow humans, and to God.   

A news article, maybe 30 years ago, still rings in my head.  A woman in the San Francisco Bay area died and left $32 million to assure the end of pet euthanasia in the Bay area.  I remember saying, “That would be about $250,000 in scholarships to each of the 120 members of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.  That would be provide one year of free Christian education for about 3000 students.  Is the world better off by eliminating pet euthanasia in one county, or by producing one year of Christian education for 3000 students?  That’s just immoral.  In the book, Wide Angle: Framing Your Worldview, Rick Warren and Chuck Colson used to say that worldview is a lens.  Well, the person who left $32 million to end pet euthanasia looks through a very discolored worldview lens. 

The land around us in Ellis county, just south of Dallas, is developing at a rapid pace.  As I drive to the University, they are building homes, warehouses, and retail establishments on both sides of the freeway.  Some years ago, there was a news story that the pet cemetery was going to be re-developed.  It wasn’t.  I don’t know why, but I can guess there was too much push-back.  You know, it had to be economic.  Someone had to put up the money to preserve the pet cemetery. 


Dog and Cat Theology

There really is a book by that title. The full title is Dog and Cat Theology: Rethinking Our Relationship with our MasterI heard the author speak at a session of Perspectives that I attended some years ago.  Here’s how it works: The dog says, “My master gives me everything, he must be God.”  While the cat says, “My master gives me everything, I must be God!?  If you’ve owned one or the other, you will see how there is quite a lot of truth in that little theology.  So the question remains: Who is God: You or someone else?  I wrote an unpublished manuscript titled There IS a God, and you’re not it!  It contains 120 meditations on various subjects.  All of them end by stating, “…..because there IS a God, and you’re not it!”  

Think about it: Humans are “god” (small g) over animals.  We tell them what to do, we feed them, we train them, we order then around.  Genesis says we are supposed to “steward” them.  It’s pretty nice to have something to order around.  As Christians, we believe exactly the opposite, we allow God to order US around.