According to a June paper published by researchers at George Regents University, 40 percent of American respondents said they would save their pet dog over a foreign tourist.
The participants, 573 Americans, were given a hypothetical moral dilemma and asked how they would respond. They were asked to choose between saving a dog and saving a human from imminent death.
The key was the level of emotional attachment and degree to which the human and the animal was considered kin. So, people would usually save any human over a dog they don’t know. But, many would save their pet dog—considered part of the family—over a human they don’t know.
“The results suggest that pets are often viewed as psychological-kin,” reads the study’s abstract. “Females were found to be more likely to save their pets over non-immediate family members than males … suggesting that males and females may differ in the structure of their moral reasoning.”
Of the female respondents, 46 percent said they would save their pet before saving a foreign tourist, according to the Wall Street Journal.
On August 4, Graham Anley of South Africa made the choice in real life. Anley and his wife, Sheryl, were sailing to Madagascar when they hit a reef. As the yacht sank, Anley saved their pet dog—a 9-year-old Jack Russell terrier, Rosie—before his wife, according to the Huffington Post and other media outlets reporting on the story. All three were safe in the end.
The Wall Street Journal explains that one report had said Anley’s wife insisted he save the dog first.