His article cited two studies:
Psychologists at Georgia Regents University explored circumstances in which people value animals over human lives. Forty percent of participants said they would save their personal pet at the expense of a foreign tourist. But only 14 percent claimed they would sacrifice the tourist when the animal in the scenario was described generically as “a dog.”
Two sociologists at Northeastern University have tested the claim that people are more upset by news stories of animal abuse than they are about attacks directed toward humans by using fake stories of abuse.
The story in which the victim was a human adult elicited, by far, the lowest levels of emotional distress in the readers. The “winner” when it came to evoking empathy was not the puppy but the human infant. The puppy, however, came in a close second with the adult dog not far behind.
The bottom line is that, at least in some circumstances, we do value animals over people— Prof Hal Herzog