Odontocetes, or ‘toothed whales’, have a complex brain structure and possess rationality, self-awareness, sociability and culture. Cognitive science and modern theories of personhood challenge the notion that humans alone are moral persons. This paper reviews evidence from the cognitive science literature relevant to moral personhood in bottlenose dolphins, orcas, and beluga whales. It applies theories of personhood of Peter Singer, David DeGrazia, and Steven Wise, and finds that odontocetes fulfil criteria to be granted at least borderline personhood. The legal implications of attributing personhood to dolphins remains uncertain. Recognition of dolphin personhood may lead to fundamental legal rights against capture, captivity, and killing; alternatively, the courts may continue to restrict legal personhood and associated protections to human beings. Finally, despite the major influence of personhood on morality and law in the West, the biologically more widespread quality of sentience is sufficient for greater moral considerability and legal protections for nonhuman species.
The popularity of puppies/dogs as companions/playmates/walking buddies was highlighted in Ireland with COVID-19 restrictions in March/2020, when the demand for puppies/dogs increased as people were confined to within 2/km of their homes. However, what was the rational supporting this trend, the influences/research undertaken by prospective owners? Two online-surveys were conducted, targeting veterinarians and behaviorists to establish motivation/attitude to owning dogs and behavioral issues being presented. Interviews by phone were conducted with the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Dog’s Trust and three Italian shelters for comparison purposes, to investigate the welfare of dogs during restrictions. An Garda Síochána (the National Police Service of Ireland) were contacted, to clarify the situation, in relation to dog theft and domestic abuse, which is strongly associated with animal abuse. Many factors may have influenced/impacted the epigenetic development of the behavior and resulting welfare of puppies/dogs, during this period.
The socioemotional lives of animals have been brought to light over the years by studies seeking to address specific topics in animal emotion, cognition and behavior. Breakthrough information has been provided by field work with natural communities, and notable advances have stemmed from non-invasive research with captive animals and from laboratory work entailing varying degrees of invasiveness. But there is a source of information on animals that has not always been integrated in the knowledge on animals’ emotional lives: the outputs of studies where animals served as models of human emotional processes but that were seldom published as literature on animals. This article proposes an integrated view whereby the vast amount of information amassed by the brain and behavioral sciences over the course of the last 30 years on the affective experiences of animals, their triggers, biomarkers and behavioral correlates is fully integrated in an account of animal emotions. Topics where this knowledge can accommodate further integration from studies with animals models of the human mind are the parental care and different types of affective bonds; the experience of empathic reactions, the association between emotions, expressive behavior and affective bonds, and conscience. Fostering further connection between these neuroscience and behavioral studies might contribute to 1) widening the breath of measures used in assessing the well-being of animals, 2) widening criteria used by ethical committees considering studies with animals, and 3) to review some common practices that by those who have key roles in the management of wild or captive animals.