2

Deuteronomy 22:1-3 teaches that if you come across your brother's lost ox, sheep, donkey, cloak, etc., you must return it, even if you do not know the one who owns it. Does this mean that if I see a stray animal such as a dog with a collar, am I required to approach it, check the tag, and locate the owner?

Also, would the answer change if there is no way to determine whether the animal has an owner (e.g., if you see a dog wandering about without a collar)?


Related question: Does Deuteronomy 22:1-3 apply to dangerous animals?

Note: To make sure these questions wouldn't be duplicates, I first asked here: Does my desire for extra information on Deuteronomy 22:1-3 warrant a separate question?

1 Answer 1

2

You cannot return something if you don't know who owns it, but you nevertheless have an obligation to announce what you found in a public place (e.g., put a notice in front of the local synagogue) and wait for people to come to you with identifying signs of the lost object to prove it is theirs.

In the case of a pet with a collar, you do have an obligation to return it to his owner if you know who it is from the collar. This applies to Jews and non-Jews (in most cases where doing so would constitute a kiddush Hashem or not doing so a hilul Hashem, see SA CM 259).

The situation for pets without tags on their collars would depend if they typically belong to people in the location where you live or not (e.g., some areas have laws that all animals need a tag on their collar).

The laws of "returning objects" are discussed at length in the Talmud in the second chapter of Bava Metsia and discussed further here and there.

8
  • 1
    Thank you for your answer! If I'm living with my parents and they tell me to stay away from stray dogs due to such being a danger, would that change the response I should take? In other words, would the fact that I should obey my parents or that the house in which I'd keep the animal belongs to my parents, override/exempt me from needing to do so, or would this command override such concerns?
    – The Editor
    Mar 26 at 23:50
  • 1
    @TheEditor Never corner a dog in a situation that would put you or the dog in danger. If the dog clearly doesn't want to engage with you, or runs away erratically and could run in the street, then you should leave it alone and call your local animal department. I have reported many Huskies running amok in Los Angeles.
    – Aaron
    Mar 27 at 2:43
  • 2
    @TheEditor for answers to personal questions, you should ask your Rav. In general, there is a law that, if parents forbid you from doing a certain thing required by the Torah, you have to abide by the Torah. It might be different however here as you can't bring in their domain something against their will. It is also possible there is a real danger involved and the Torah might not ask you to hurt yourself to return someone's object, it might be enough to inform him that you saw his dog in such and such a place. Again ask a Rav
    – mbloch
    Mar 27 at 3:05
  • @mbloch In saying "This applies to Jews and non-Jews," are you saying this applies whether the finder (i.e., I myself) is a Jew or Gentile, or are you saying it applies whether the one who lost the pet is a Jew or Gentile?
    – The Editor
    Mar 28 at 15:15
  • @TheEditor the latter
    – mbloch
    Mar 28 at 15:15

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .