EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE AFTER 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 20, 2001

See Spot Go to Heaven?

The Publics Not So Sure

Is there a chew toy waiting for Sparky behind the pearly gates? Americans, and even pet owners, are not so sure.

Theres little dispute among the public about the existence of heaven nearly nine in 10 adults believe in it. But whether or not mans best friend will be joining him there well, thats where Americans divide like cats and dogs.

Forty-three percent in an ABC News/Beliefnet poll think pets go to heaven when they die. But about as many, 40 percent, think heaven is reserved for people only. The rest are withholding judgment, possibly until Judgment Day.

Not even pet owners about six in 10 adults are so sure that heaven awaits their assorted dogs, cats, hamsters, fish and ferrets. Forty-seven percent of pet owners say pets go to heaven, still not a majority. Perhaps envisioning eternal relief from dog-walking duties, 35 percent of pet owners say only people have a berth in the great beyond.

  Do pets go to heaven?
  Yes No
All     43%   40%
Pet owners 47 35
Non-pet owners 38 48

In a test, this poll asked half of respondents if all animals go to heaven, as opposed to just pets. About the same number, 41 percent, said yes.

GROUPS Younger people are more likely to think heaven is open to Fido, Fifi, et. al. And people living in the Northeast are more apt to say so theyre a bit more likely than Americans living in other areas to own a pet.

METHODOLOGY - This ABC News/Beliefnet poll was conducted by telephone June 27-July 1, 2001, among a random national sample of 1,018 adults. The results have a three-point error margin. Fieldwork by ICR-International Communications Research of Media, Pa.

Analysis by Dalia Sussman, ABC News.