Editor— When you reject human relationships, do you usually become more attached to animals and more supportive of animals in general. Scientists tell us that many people say they prefer animals to people. Is that a healthy behavior and what do people say about their feelings with respect to humans vs animals?
Leona Helmsley favored her animals over people. She was referred to as the “Queen of Mean” after making remarks about her employees, that only the “little people” pay taxes. She was convicted of tax fraud and died of heart failure in 1987, according to a biography of the woman many Americans came to hate after reading about her and how she was said to have treated her employees . In her will, she left her dog, Trouble, a Maltese $12 million, significantly more than what she left her grandchildren, raising public consternation and questions at the time. The questions about those who prefer animals over people became prominent at the time her bequest was revealed.
Yet despite the play given by the press to the negatives of the Helmsleys, both Leona and her husband Harry, few, if any members of the media looked at what other charitable contributions they made, for example, the Helmsley Trust, that is said to provide financial assistance for “effective nonprofits in health and medical research, human services, education, and conservation.”
The New York Times quotes Joel Gavriele-Gold, a New York psychotherapist, saying, “There are whole segments of the population that prefer being in the company of dogs than people, and I’m not sure that’s such a negative thing.” In fact his statement sums up the findings of many psychologists, that the attitude about animals relative to people is one that is shared by many and not especially a negative thing.
A survey of people’s attitudes toward everything from the Loch Ness Monster to pets, found that about 20% of people report they prefer their pets over people. A random conversation with a group of seniors brought the observation that when a person grows old and can’t get around much anymore, the closeness of a pet is important. In fact that closeness has been found to have medical benefits in aging. In fact it has been found that having a pet lowers depression, provides a sense of security and can actually help prevent a heart attack.