Support the Café

Search our Site

Churches serving four legged friends

Churches serving four legged friends

More and more congregations are ministering to animals as well as their humans.

In a culture obsessed with dogs, dog whisperers and domestic pets of all kinds, religious groups are paying attention, too.

Many megachurches, where members often meet in smaller affinity groups, are sponsoring groups for pet lovers. In 2007, the Humane Society hired a liaison to religious communities, and next month its Web site will start a directory of affiliated ministries. In seminaries and divinity schools, the study of animals and religion is growing.

“Animal ministries are in every state,” said Christine Gutleben, the Humane Society’s first director of faith outreach, “and they do everything, including pet food in traditional food drives, to donating to local shelters, designating church grounds as animal sanctuaries, hosting adoption events, printing animals for adoption in church bulletins.”

Ms. Gutleben said some churches now include pets in their antipoverty work: “They will host an event for the surrounding community, and provide medical and dental care for people, but also have a veterinarian who will provide free vaccines on church grounds.” At churches like Church of the King, outside New Orleans, which hosts monthly events for pets, hundreds of people will line up to get vaccines.

It would be hard say that helping pets is not a good thing, befitting a religious person. But the justification for helping animals is a source of contention among theologians. Roughly speaking, some Christian thinkers believe animals have intrinsic rights to be treated well, like people. Other thinkers hold to the more traditional teaching that humankind was given dominion over animals, so while people should exercise compassionate stewardship over animals, the animals have no “right” to such treatment. And then others wish to revise our understanding of Christian tradition altogether.

“Animals have always been central to Christianity, as well as all the world’s major religions,” said Laura Hobgood-Oster, who teaches at Southwestern University, in Georgetown, Tex., and is the author of “Holy Dogs and Asses: Animals in the History of the Christian Tradition.”

One example occurred last month at the Church of the Redeemer in Sayre, Pennsylvania. Northeast Pennsylvania was hit with devastating floods and this church in the Diocese of Bethlehem responded with a pet food drive.

The Church of the Redeemer with Boy Scout Troop 4019 started to collect supplies for the Bradford County ASPCA in Ulster on Wednesday. If you will pardon the pun, they are flooded with displaced pets and are in need of cat litter, kitten chow, canned and dried cat food, canned and dried dog food and cleaning supplies….

…In three and a half days and with a minimum of effort we collected: 501.21 lbs of dry cat food, 44.5 lbs of kitten food, 48 pouches and 259 cans of moist cat food (for the senior felines) and 407 pounds of cat litter. For our canine friends we received 650.5 lbs of the requested Pedigree dry food, 590.5 pounds of other brand dog food, 243 cans of Pedigree moist food, 40 lbs of dog treats, 15 gallons of bleach, bags of bedding and monetary donations of $434.02.


Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

1 Comment
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Ray Buchanan

Our St. Francis Guild ( is a very active part of our congregation and the community providing food for pets of homeless people and those in need, educational and entertainment events, healing services and a garden with space for interment of cremated remains. The “likes” on the Facebook page are mostly non-congregational followers. Many in the community know Church of the Redeemer through this important ministry.

Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café