It’s possible. Higher functioning kids on the spectrum love animals, even though they need to be taught through repetition to be kind and take care of animals. The thought that something which doesn’t speak could feel pain or fear is a difficult concept for any child on the spectrum because their whole world is their own inner universe. Generally they will be fascinated by them, but unless they are verbal, kids on the spectrum usually don’t vocalize that they love animals or prefer any one kind of pet over another.
Sometimes, kids who are not verbal are very interested in animals and will do everything they can to try and touch or pet them. They might get a little rough because they don’t quite grasp that animals are living, breathing creatures that feel, and are often surprised when an animal snaps back. Parents have to stay close to their autistic children and do all they can to teach them how to be kind and gentle to animals.
Bonds do form between both the verbal and nonverbal ASD people and pets; whether or not it’s referred to as “love” is a matter of personal perception or verbalization on the part of the verbal ASD kids and adults. If gorillas and kittens can form a bond, and it’s in human nature to be fascinated by and love animals, then it is highly possible that autistic people do love animals.
The best way to judge this with anyone who is on the spectrum and nonverbal is by how they treat the animals they share a home with or animals in a zoo or petting zoo. If they are very gentle and appear very loving, chances are that they do love animals. They may even love animals if they are overenthusiastic about petting them, but all children and adults with autism need to be taught to be gentle with animals, just as kids who aren’t on the spectrum need to be taught the same thing.