This an animal lover, who is also a chill beach bum.
Mary Norris, a.k.a The Common Queen, has been working at The New Yorker for the best part of the last four decades. She’s popularly known for her open-ended explanations of commonly confusing English pronunciations and commas, but her latest clarification of how to correctly refer to animals in terms of comparative or relative pronouns such as “who” and “that” is definitely taking things to another level.
According to Mary, the way you refer to animals fully depends on your relationship with the animals. For instance, it’s proper to refer to animals you’re highly fond of as “who.” In this case, you should use “who” to refer to animals when you think they have personalities or they’re worthy of personhood.
On the other hand, “that” should be used to refer to animals when you only think of them as animals and nothing else. In other words, you can use “that” when you don’t have any actual relationship with the animal for example elephants, dolphins and lions.
In essence, Mary’s approach on this topic is unequivocally funny, albeit being very informative. Nonetheless, you have the freewill to use the pronouns the way you want, because as she says…”Were at the beach so anything goes!” We like you Mary, we really like you.