The aim of this article is to analyze the views on man’s relation to animals in the handbooks of moral theology from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which affected theological and moral reflection until the 1970s. Man’s relation to animals is discussed in most of the analyzed studies representing the Alphonsian, Neo-Thomistic and Christocentric currents. The moralists focus primarily on the question of acquiring the ownership right to animals. However, the authors also reflect on animal rights and man’s duties towards other living beings. Although these categories are usually unacceptable to them, they clearly encourage their readers to treat animals with sensitivity. Some handbooks actually describe instances of cruelty to animals as morally offensive. The writings analyzed permit the conclusion that the pre-Conciliar moral theology laid foundations for the development of the contemporary concept of man’s duties towards animals in the teaching of the Catholic Church and in theological and moral thought.