The definition of character:
2. a person in a novel, play, or film.
Is there a similar word but that also includes animals?
In the novel, she meets many peculiar animals and humans. These [...].
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Character is commonly used in the context of comics, by extension I think you can use it referring to a novel or a movie:
- A person or animal portrayed with a personality in comics or animation: a cartoon character. (AHD)
- Lassie is a fictional female collie dog character created by Eric Knight in a short story expanded to novel length called Lassie Come-Home. (Wikipedia)
Consider the term "personae" to call the human and animal characters in a novel.
personae (pl. of persona): the characters in a play, novel, etc. Random House