CBS Local — A new study is making the claim that humans care more about “man’s best friend” than they do about their human friends. Researchers say that humans expressed more empathy towards dogs than other people when both were hurt or needed help.

The study, published in the journal Society and Animals, examined the reactions of over 240 students when they were given fictitious news reports about injured dogs and people. The team from Northeastern University gave each person a group of stories detailing how a puppy, adult dog, 30-year-old person, and a baby were injured or attacked.

According to the results, the students had the same amount of empathy when learning about the puppy and human baby; followed closely by the adult dog. The sympathy for the human adult received a noticeably lower score from the students. “Age seems to trump species, when it comes to eliciting empathy. In addition, it appears that adult humans are viewed as capable of protecting themselves while full grown dogs are just seen as larger puppies,” Northeastern professor Jack Levin said, via Science Daily.

The study added that the students viewed their own pets as family members instead of animals. The study may point to why Americans are choosing to adopt more “fur babies” in recent years. According to Insurance Information Institute, nearly 70 percent of all U.S. households have a pet. That number is reportedly up from 56 percent 30 years ago. About 60 million of those households are home to man’s best friend in 2017 with cats running a distant second at 47 million households.

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