Can dogs be present at Mass?

I just heard a story recently by someone at work who attended Mass at a church in the South. During the Mass he couldn’t believe that the priest allowed his dog to stay under the altar. The dog didn’t make a sound and just laid there throughout the whole Mass perfectly still. I felt this was very wrong to have a dog upon the altar. Am I wrong?

Without more information from the priest about why this dog was in the sanctuary, I cannot say that the priest’s actions were wrong. Given the dog’s quiet, non-disruptive behavior during the Mass, it is possible that the dog was a trained assistance animal. If the dog was there as a service companion to the priest or to one of the altar ministers (e.g., the deacon), it would not be a problem for the dog to be present in the sanctuary. Those who did not understand why the dog was present might have politely asked the priest after Mass the purpose of allowing the dog in the sanctuary. A sample of an appropriate query might be to shake the priest’s hand, smile, and ask with an interested demeanor: “Father, I noticed the beautiful Lab on the altar during Mass. Is he a trained assistance animal?”

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