The Bible does not clearly tell us whether or not animals have souls or will go to heaven, so we will need to look at both relevant verses and use reason in order to get an answer.
Do Animals Have Souls?
First, humans and animals are unique on earth in that they are moving and breathing beings. However, Genesis 1:26-27 states that humans are made in God’s own image. While there is debate about exactly what that means, it is clear that the Bible says it only about humans, and not about animals.
At least one part of what it means to be made in the image of God is that humans are spiritual beings who display many emotions and abilities. While it seems that many animals do have some form of emotion and communication, it is nowhere near that displayed by humans.
Genesis 35:18 says that Rachel named her child “as her soul was departing.” This tells us that there is a part of us (the soul), that continues after we die. All throughout Scripture we see this concept of a soul, even in reference to it being lost or saved such as in James 1:21 and Ezekiel 18:4. Nowhere in Scripture do we see souls like this referenced in regards to animals.
Another biblical reason to distinguish between animals and humans is that God instructs Moses in Exodus 20:13 that the people should not murder. The term used refers only to humans, and not animals. In addition, other passages explicitly either command (for sacrifice) or allow (for food) the killing of animals. This shows a distinction between humans and animals as well, because even when God commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, He does not allow him to go through with it.
This does not, however, necessarily mean that animals don’t have souls. What it does mean is that if they do, then they are not the same type of souls that people have, and that they are not a type in need of redemption like those of humans.
Do Animals Go to Heaven?
Does this mean that there will be no animals in heaven? Not necessarily. In Genesis 1, God said that all that He had created was good. That included animals, and this was before the Genesis 3 fall of man and entry of sin into the world. Because God saw them as initially good, it is entirely possible that there will be animals in heaven as well. There is no way of knowing whether these will be animals that we had as pets here on earth, however.
In addition, John’s vision shows white horses in heaven in Revelation 19:11-14. This is further evidence that there may be animals in heaven. And while biblical descriptions of heaven do not give a wealth of information about what it will be like there, we do know from Revelation 22:4 that “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” What this tells us is that if we need animals in heaven in order to have no sorrow, then they will be there. If we do not need them, then they may or may not be. The Lord does give gifts to his children (James 1:17)
How Should We Treat Animals?
Just because animals either do not have souls or at least do not have the same type as humans does not mean that they should be mistreated. Genesis 1:28 gives man “dominion” over all the other creatures on earth. Humans who seek after God should govern as best they can in the way that God does. God uses us for His purposes, but also cares for us. This is how we should approach animals as well.
And while Genesis 9:3 and Acts 10:13 show that humans can eat animals, this does not mean that they should be treated carelessly. Proverbs 12:10 states “Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.” We should use animals for our purposes and control their population both for their and our own good, but we should also protect them from abuse as good stewards of God creation.
Biblically, we cannot say that animals have souls, or that our pets will go to heaven. What we can say is that animals do not have souls in the way that humans do, there could very well be animals in heaven, and we must look after animals in a loving way.