Question: Is it alright to get pets to take the Threefold Refuge in the Triple Gem? Although all sentient beings have Buddha-nature, can animals understand refuge?
Answer: Getting animals to take refuge is done in the hope that there might be some right understanding, and to create some affinity between them and the Triple Gem. If there is no adequate understanding and intention, it is not proper or complete refuge. There is no harm though, if it is done out of good intention.
Some animals do seem to understand what is going on, even agreeing to abide by precepts. A recent case is a rescued cat in a Korean nunnery, who was given refuge and the Dharma name ‘Liberation’, who even abides by three special ‘precepts’ given – to not kill, eat meat or make noise in the Buddha hall.