Monday, November 26, 2007

Pets in Halacha

Someone recently asked on a mailing list to which I subscribe whether there are any halachic issues with owning pets.

R' Yitzchak Nachman Eshkoli devotes a chapter to pets in his sefer "Tza'ar Ba'alei Chaim". Some excerpts:

- Rambam (N"M 5:10) says that it's assur to raise a dog unless it is tied with a chain (based on a literal reading of Mishnah on BK 79b), but most poskim (inc. Shu"A Ch"M 409:3) say that the issur applies only to a bad dog. The Yam Shel Shlomo (BK 87:45) limits the heter to "Kufri dogs" which are especially unscary, but Rema, Knh"G, and Shu"A HaRav write that the minhag is not like the Ysh"Sh, and that only a kelev ra is problematic. Rashba (BK end. ch. 4) and Pele Yoetz (s.v. Kelev) say that there is a midas chasidus not to raise dogs, based on BK 83a.

- Ysh"Sh (BK 87:37) writes that there's no problem with raising cats nowadays, as the cat mentioned on BK 80b as being dangerous is no longer common.

- Shu"T Afrekasta d'Anya (R' David Sperber of Barshov - 163) and Be'er Moshe (2:58), based on Maharsha on Sotah 48a, say that one cannot raise songbirds. Shu"T L'Horos Noson (11:77) writes regarding even owning a mimic bird that "ein da'as chachamim nocheh mizeh". Shu"T Ateres Paz (1:2 - Yo"D 5) writes, though, that the explanation of the Maharsha is not accepted la-halacha by rov poskim. R' Elyakum Dvorkes writes that keeping any bird in a cage may be problematic mishum TzB"Ch, but acknowledges that this may not apply by all species. Shu"T Sha'ar Asher (2:272:18) argues, being that TzB"Ch is hutar l'tzorech bnei adam, and many poskim are mashma like him, also.

- Shu"T Chesed L'Avraham (R' Avraham Alkalai - Yo"D 117), Zivchei Tzedek (117:43), and Levushei Mordechai (Mahdu"T Yo"D 50) prohibit raising rabbits because they're b'heimos t'mei'os, but since their stated reason is based on most rabbits being raised as food, Shu"T Ateres Paz says the issur doesn't apply nowadays. Shu"T Yachin uBoaz (2:25) similarly allows raising monkeys.

He also discusses owning pets from a bitul zman/bitul mamon standpoint (see Shu"T M'shaneh Halachos 6:216), although Shu"T Ateres Paz writes that the issur is only if he exerts excessive torach on taking care of them, and that if a person's mind will be calmed by them, efshar l'hakeil. Also, R"Ch Naeh (Ketzos HaShulchan-Badei HaShulchan 151:4) and RSZA (brought down by ShSh"K (who is this? - 18:62) discuss whether a fish tank is muktzah, without mentioning any issue with owning fish in and of itself.

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At 11/29/2007 7:44 PM, Anonymous chaim said...

1. It's worth noting that there's a strong case for differentiating between "raising" a given type of animal and owning one as a pet.

2. Even if we say that "TzB"Ch is hutar l'tzorech bnei adam," it still seems that keeping a bird as a pet wouldn't qualify as "tsorech."

At 11/29/2007 8:12 PM, Blogger Josh M. said...

1) The primary difference, as I see it, is one of tzorech. One raises a cow for milk and a sheep for wool, while with a pet, the utility is somewhat hazier. The issues that I mentioned, though, are mostly external to this distinction.

2) Tzorech in tza'ar ba'alei chaim tends to be a very broad category - there are various shittos who say that kavod habriyos, tircha, profit, and/or prevention of loss all constitute sufficient tz'rachim to allow tzb"ch. See Ohr Samei'ach Hil Rotzei'ach ch. 13, Chasam Sofer Shabbos 154b, Ran BM 32, and Yam Shel Shlomo BK 10:37 for examples of these shittos (although yesh cholkim).

In this specific case, the Sha'ar Asher states that the heter is because of "K'vodam shel ashirim". Rashi on BM 113b also implies the existence of such a heter.

At 11/29/2007 9:01 PM, Blogger Ariella said...

a serious halachic that arises with respect to pets is the practice of neutering pet dogs. This is an explicit issur in the Torah. However, those who obtain pet dogs say it is mutar (and some have gotten rabbis' sanction) as the neutering is supposedly to the benefit of the dog's health. But, one can simply say, that one should not put oneself into the situation in which one must resort to such, as there is no real need (barring the handicapped whose dogs are trained to assist them) to have the dog (or cat, as the case may be).
However, I do acknowledge that pets do seem to prove beneficial as company to the elderly who live alone. So perhaps in such a case . . .

At 11/29/2007 9:10 PM, Blogger Josh M. said...

I hadn't heard that anyone was matir sirus for the good of the animal. But if it is truly mutar, I don't see why it would be preferable to avoid it.

I do agree that owning a pet creates a whole list of issues that one has to deal with halachically, to the extent that I can't see why it's worthwhile, but al ta'am v'rei'ach, lo l'hisvakei'ach.

At 11/30/2007 12:24 PM, Blogger Ariella said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 11/30/2007 12:36 PM, Blogger Ariella said...

I think the heter rabbis give is along the lines of shechting dying cows. The pet owners approach with the attitude that they must to the operation and just want the rabbinic consent. I've heard from two dog owners who claimed the dog's health as the rabbinic justification. However, when my husband inquired on a hypothetical level from a neighborhood rabbi, he said mistama, it is assur.
Even if something is permissible bedieved does not mean one should lechatchila put himself into the situation in which he must rely on a bedieved.

At 11/30/2007 12:41 PM, Blogger Josh M. said...

I don't understand how a b'di'eved - especially one with as flimsy a basis as simply being an improvement of the dog's health in the long run - would be enough to be matir it at all. If any legitimate rav is matir it, it would have to be due to a real kula in the halachos of sirus (which I'm not so acquainted with), not just due to a sha'as had'chak scenario.

This being the case, I agree that where it's possible to avoid machlokes by going without, that often is the best way to go (I once received such an ambivalent psak regarding a certain eiruv, on the basis of that I'm single and had no real need to use it). But assuming that the psak is a legitimate one (if you know of any inside source, I'd be very interested in seeing it, as it strikes me as being a bizarre kula), I don't believe that one can say that a person - who asked the sha'alah l'fi tumo, of course - "should not" be someich on it; perhaps the best one could say is that one should "not be someich" on it.

At 11/30/2007 12:51 PM, Blogger Josh M. said...

OK, I think that I responded to your deleted post, so much of what I said before might not be relevant.

Based on the sevara of your 12:36 post, though, it is a scenario that people should avoid, altogether. I still don't understand why a rav would be matir at all due to the animal's health, but then, I have no experience in the practical application of piskei halacha.

My amateur view would be that the situation could also be avoided by the dog-owner staring down the veterinarian on this issue (are there any civil laws on this?), but there are still other issues.

At 8/17/2008 4:20 PM, Blogger shauli said...

I believe the Alter Rebbe in ShuA Harav says that Kol Yare Shamayim yachmir al atzmo that even a dog who only barks, not bites is Assur,
Just a clarification


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