Why do such few religious homes have dogs? The Torah speaks often about how important it is to have rachmanus on animals. We are living in a time where millions upon millions of dogs are being housed in shelters every year & due to lack of resources many of these sweet animals are killed every single day. Is there something that I’m missing? Are there halachic problems with owning a dog that I’m unaware of? Why is it considered taboo in the frum world to save a dog’s life? Is there a single Orthodox Rabbi that advocates for saving these innocent animals?


Because God is compassionate on all his creatures, we have a number of laws that make keeping domestic animals complicated. By acquiring an animal, one acquires a master, for instance

  • one should feed animals before eating oneself (see e.g., here)
  • one needs to avoid any pain to animals (tzaar baalei chaim)
  • On Shabbat, some consider domestic animals to be muktzeh so they may not be moved by hand
  • One cannot pray in a place where there is an odor of animal waste
  • One needs to compensate others for damages caused by one's animal
  • One cannot castrate an animal

So it is because we are commanded to respect and care for animals that many Jews elect not to have them.

At the same time, Judaism place higher value on human than animal life. So in a world where so many suffer from hunger and poverty, a Jew should first save a human life or alleviate human suffering before the ones of animals.

For detailed references, see e.g., here, here and there.

  • I'm not sure this is the correct answer. Sure we have requirements to treat them well, but the reason people don't put themselves in a position to follow those ordinances isn't laziness. It's a preference to be doing more important things. – Double AA Sep 7 '18 at 14:43
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    That is the sense of my last para. eilu v eilu I would say. I know Jewish animal lovers that don’t have animals. And I know some who couldn’t care less and indeed focus on more important things – mbloch Sep 7 '18 at 14:45
  • I thought of the davening / odor problem first. And for OP, this is not as simple a problem to resolve as you would think. Even house-trained dogs, inevitably leave an odor, and cats leave an odor in the litter box. They need to be constantly cleaned to avoid this problem. I should also mention that many are allergic to pet hair, and that's not just a Jewish problem. – DanF Sep 7 '18 at 15:13

Mbloch's answer is a good one and it is quite thorough. However, I can see that some readers may infer a sense of "laziness" from that answer, so I wish to present the "opposite" view that, I think, shows a sense of consideration. I will demonstrate by actual example:

A while ago, one of my kids wanted a dog. I adamantly refused based on scheduling. The question I posed my kid - "Who will take care of the dog? Feed it and walk it, mainly?"

Why did I think this couldn't be done?

When the day begins, he rushes in the morning to get dressed, brush teeth, etc. get lunch and verify school supplies, with my supervision and he better be on that bus on time b/c I have to leave for work, too. No time to feed the dog or walk it, then.

Yeshiva day ends about 6 pm, and when he gets home, he needs an hour to clam down from the hectic day, eat, and do homework and get to bed so he's not tired to function the next day. And, frequently, his parents (wife and I, that is), get home late, ourselves.

In short - no one has time to feed or walk the dog, no matter what anyone intends. And what I mention is quite typical in religious households. Jewish religious daily activity is extremely busy and hectic. I won't even delve into what it's like for a woman or man (I do most of the cooking and Shabat shopping these days, instead of my wife) to prepare for Shabbat in the kitchen with Spot running around, barking or whining.

In actuality, if you had a dog, you would be mistreating, and neglecting it. So, avoiding the problem by not owning one is, in a way, a chessed.

  • I disagree with that last part. There are plenty of jews who have dogs. It's just a smaller ratio compared to the rest of the world. It is doable it's just more difficult. – Orion Sep 7 '18 at 16:57
  • @Orion Take my last paragraph as a "majority" practice - not an absolute. There are many Orthodox Jews that own dogs, cats and even white elephants "-) – DanF Sep 7 '18 at 17:01

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