Sunday, November 23, 2008

Are Pets Muktzah?

I was asked whether pets are muktzah, i.e. are you allowed to pick them up on Shabbos? The short answer is, according to almost everyone, yes they are muktzah and no you may not pick them up on Shabbos. Here's the long answer.

There is a general prohibition to use or ride animals on Shabbos. Since animals may not be used for anything, they are muktzah and you may not move them (Shabbos 128b, Maggid Mishneh, Hilkhos Shabbos 25:25). That should pretty much settle the matter.

Click here to read moreThere is an opinion of R. Yosef Porat in Tosafos (Shabbos 45b sv. hakha) that a bird may be carried if its singing will calm a crying baby. This would seem to leave open room for carrying a pet for entertainment purposes. However, this view of R. Yosef Porat is widely rejected and the broad consensus of modern authorities is that it may not be followed. See Iggeros Moshe 4:16; Yabi'a Omer 5:Orach Chaim:26), Shemiras Shabbos Ke-Hilkhasah ch. 27 n. 96; R. Yisroel Bodner, Halachos of Muktza, pp. 118-119.

However, there is a contemporary view that the opinion of R. Yosef Porat was regarding a regular (non-pet) bird that was taken to quiet a crying a child. A pet is different and allows more room for leniency because it is set aside for personal use. This view is accepted by R. Moshe Feinstein (Iggeros Moshe 5:Orach Chaim:22:21). However, almost all other authorities reject it. R. Shmuel David (Me-Rosh Tzurim 38:6) quotes R. Aharon Lichtenstein as saying that you should be strict but those who are lenient have on what to rely.

There is an excellent discussion of this matter in R. Howard (Chaim) Jachter, "Halachic Perspectives on Pets" in The Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society no. 23 (Spring 1992) pp. 49-53 (link) and, more recently and therefore with some more recent sources, R. Natan Slifkin, Man & Beast: Our Relationships with Animals in Jewish Law and Thought, pp. 234-238 (a book that I think all pet owners should have).

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