Are Orthodox Jews 'Allowed' to Have Pets

I ask because I can’t recall ever seeing an Orthodox family or child walking their/his/her dog. Likewise, despite the fact that there are many Orthodox Jews living in my area, I’ve never heard the sound of a dog barking coming from their homes.

Now I recognize that my observations are hardly the stuff of hard science. Maybe other types of pets, especially indoor types, are commonplace among the Chassidim.

If I am correct in my speculation that there is some sort of prohibition against dog or pet ownership by the Orthodox, why is that?

Orthodox Jews are not forbidden to own pets. There are some halachic problems that can arise, but they can be worked around. I had two dogs as a kid. My sister had birds and fish. When my wife and I got married, we got hamsters (we traded them in for kids later :slight_smile: ).

Some of the problems that can arise are:

Pet food. Pet food does not have to be kosher. Pets can eat pork. However, Orthodox Jews are forbidden to have any benefit from meat/milk mixtures. This includes feeding one’s animals such food. As a result, one must make sure that the pet food you give your pet does not have any meat/milk mixtures.

In addition, on Passover, one is not allowed to own or have any benefit from chametz (leaven). As a result, any food you give your pet on Passover cannot have chametz in it. We gave our dogs “people” food (they didn’t complain!).

Walking a pet on Shabbos. Carrying in a “public domain” on Shabbos is forbidden. Walking a pet on a leash is usually considered carrying. In addition, many authorities consider pets to be muktzeh, items that cannot be moved on Shabbos at all. As such, walking pets in public can be a problem. One solution is to fence off a small portion of your backyard and allow the dog to have free reign therein.

Spaying and nuetering. This could be a serious problem. There is a prohibition against sterilizing animals. My dogs (both female) had been spayed before we became religious and did not have to address the issue. (IzzyR, are you out there?)

There are potentailly other problems and one should contact their LOR (local Orthodox rabbi) and not take my word as the final halacah.

Zev Steinhardt

Thank you Zev. Very helpful. I hadn’t even considered the spaying/neutering issue.

I was told (by an extremely learned Orthodox rabbi) that there is also a psychological aversion to owning dogs, especially on the part of older Jews. Dogs were used by the cossaks and the Nazis in their persecutions of Jews, and therefore carry, um, unpleasant connotations.

Zev, I’m not sure what question you summoned me for, but your post was on the mark, as usual.

C K Dexter Haven

I can’t say this definitively, but I’m convinced that it’s more of a cultural thing. IOW, owning dogs is one of the things that never became a part of the Jewish culture. (I have an old Jewish jokebook that has several jokes about the stereotype of a Jew being afraid of dogs.) In general, it would be interesting to know at what point dogs became accepted as pets in the various countries. It may be that in Eastern Europe dogs were primarily owned for utilitarian purposes until very recently, and Jews may not have worked in occupations that required them.

I was sure that you could give more detail on the issur of spaying/neutering.

As it is, after I posted, I found my Spring 1992 issue of the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society which had an extensive article about the halachic perspective of owning pets. The author (whose name escapes me at this moment) went into detail about the the spaying/neutering issue.

There is one additional issue I forgot to mention:
Trapping an animal on Shabbos. It is against halachah to trap an animal on Shabbos. As such, a simple act like closing the door behind a pet could be a problem. Most large animals which will come back to their home anyway (like dogs) will not generally be a problem. However, if a bird gets out of it’s cage on Shabbos, you cannot put it back in. One time, one of our hamsters got out on Shabbos and he had the run of the house for a few hours until Shabbos was over.

Zev Steinhardt

Just to clear up on the details, one is permitted to play with, handle, touch, etc his or her own pet on Shabbos. However, animals belonging to other people are muktzeh on Shabbos.

I had a whole discussion with my LOR regarding pets right before we bought the kids some fish for Channukah. Did you know it is muttar (permitted) to feed fish on Shabbos?!? I was surprised!


I am not aware of any distinction in this regard. However, this exact distinction is true regarding your second point - you may feed any animals that depend on you for their food, but not others. Are you sure that you don’t have these two issues mixed up?

Izzy. I will head back and check my sources. You could be right… let me do some poking.

FTR, my wife, jdimbert tells me of a sugya she heard of prohibiting owners of dogs from getting aliyot. Neither she nor I believe that it exists, but she’s heard of it and knows of at least one shteible that uses it to justify not giving aliyot to dog owners. :shrug:

The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, frank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. 2 Samuel 12:2-3, New International Version (Thompson, ed., 1974).

Presumably, the people in the prophet Nathan’s parable were Orthodox Jews. :wink:

You’re welcome.

I lived for a couple years in the Plateau region of Montreal around Hutchison and Saint-Viateur, a very orthodox neighbourhood. I do recall the occasional dog or cat being owned by my Orthodox Jewish neighbours.


You’re right; I’m wrong. As a matter of fact, you’re exactly right; the distinction I made applies to feeding one’s animal, not handling it.

However, I do know of many Orthodox Rabbi’s that make a similar distinction regarding the laws of muktza. I just don’t know why (yet), since all the sources I checked last night stated clearly that all animals are muktza.


**sdimbert **

I could understand a distinction being made between pets and other animals (I’ve never seen an actual ruling to this effect, but it has a logic to it), but the concept of the same animal being muktza to one person and not another is highly unusual, to say the least.

Also bizarre is your wife’s tale of the shtiebel not giving aliyos to dog owners. :confused: