This question came from a young child who wrote, "My puppy got killed last night by a pick-up truck. Did it go to heaven?" It's a question I hear often from children, and if you're a parent, you too have probably heard something like it. The problem is, how to answer such a question . . . everyone knows animals don't have souls, right?
Wrong. At least, not according to scripture. In the creation of the animals it is clear animals were given the same thing we were given, that is, a soul, and further, animals were considered by the Israelites to be more than just food or companions. They were considered a co-equal part of God's creation.
According to the creation stories of Genesis 1 and 2 when God created the humans they were made nephesh chayah, Hebrew for "living beings" or "living souls." This is the same phrase used throughout the creation accounts for what we consider, and the King James version calls, the soul (See Genesis 2.7). Indeed, animals were so much like humans (in the created order) that they weren't even supposed to kill each other for food:
"'And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.' And it was so." Genesis 1.30
And humans weren't supposed to eat the animals either--they were supposed to be vegetarians too:
God said [to the humans], 'See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.'" Genesis 1.29
In fact, according to Genesis 2.18-20 God created the animals, not for food, but for companionship and to be helpers for the first human. It isn't until Genesis 9, after the great flood, that the prohibition against eating animals was lifted--and then only with specific regulations regarding the appropriate slaughter of the animal and the dedication of the animal's blood (the life force) as an offering. This offering is most likely as an apology for the taking of the life--see Genesis 9 and also note the similarities in Native American culture. But in the perfect world of paradise, humans and animals were all vegetarian--and from the very beginning all animals, including the human, were equal in their status as living creatures.
And so, what about animals in heaven? In the descriptions of heaven, animals are included in it. In the book of Revelation we find lions, eagles, oxen, horses, lambs, and so on, all taking their place in the heavenly court. Though the book of Revelation is an apocalypse, that is a metaphor, it clearly shows the Biblical writer was certain animals would be in paradise with God.
So, did the child's pet go to heaven? In a day when we are only just beginning to understand that we are a part of creation, not the end-all of God's handiwork, I have to kneel down, put my arms around her and say, "Yes, my child, your puppy went to heaven."