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Kislev 5766 – Assorted Pet Shaalos

4 Kislev 5766
Assorted Pet Shaalos From Jem Sem Readers:

L’Chvod HaRav,

Q. My brother recently got a dog. We heard that there is a heter to touch your own dog on shabbos. Is this true?

A. Thank you for your question. The Gemara (Shabbos 128b) states that all animals are Muktzah, and this is quoted as the Halacha in the Shulchan Oruch, Orach Chaim 308:39. However, there is discussion among the Rishonim and among the latter day Poskim whether or not this applies to modern day pets that are kept in the home for the entertainment, and companionship of their owners. Most Poskim (Rabbi Moshe Feinstein Zatza”l, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach Zatza”l, and [Yibadel L’Chaim] Rabbi Ovadia Yosef Shlit”a) are stringent regarding average household pets, but are lenient if there is a specific need, such as a seeing eye dog.

Even according to those who are stringent, an animal may be moved to alleviate its suffering, if necessary.

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Q. I have a question about caring for a dog on Shabbos. I live in a high-rise building in a city, where the only place to take the dog out (when she needs to go out) is on the street, on a leash. I’ve heard there are certain issues/restrictions for doing so, and also for cleaning up after the dog, but I’m not familiar with them. Can you advise?

A. Thank you for your question. It is permitted to allow a dog out on Shabbos , even on a leash. The only restriction regarding this is that if there is no Eruv, the leash must be held at the very end of it, and it should not be wrapped around your hand or dangling from your hand, as this is considered carrying that portion that is dangling or wrapped. Since the other side is connected to the dog, it would not be considered as if you are carrying that side. Regarding cleaning up after the dog, this would absolutely not be permitted on Shabbos if there is no Eruv. If there is an Eruv this would be permitted ONLY if failure to do so would mean that you would be unable to take the dog out to relieve itself. The dog itself should not be held or petted on Shabbos, as it is Muktzah, according to most Poskim.

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Q. Why is it prohibited on Shabbos to feed animals that don’t rely on you for food?

A. The reason this is forbidden is because it goes into the category of “unnecessary exertion” (Tircha Yiseira) that the Rabbis said should not be done, even though technically according to the laws of the Melachos of Shabbat they should be permitted. Since the animal is quite capable of foraging for food for itself, this is considered unnecessary. The reason why they forbade these things was to aid and encourage the proper atmosphere and spirit on Shabbat, similar to the laws of Muktzah. Unnecessary exercise is also forbidden for this reason.

However, as you note, a pet that relies on you may be fed on Shabbos, and should actually be fed before you yourself eat your meal.

Take care,
Rabbi Aaron Tendler