05. Carrying Pets and Sick Animals

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As we will see later on (23:5), anything that has no practical use on Shabbat is muktzeh and may not be carried. Animals are included in this category and thus may not be carried on Shabbat. If, in order to prevent them from being hurt, it is necessary to move them, the Sages permitted pulling them but not picking them up (SA 308:39-40). At first glance, this would seem to pertain to house pets like cats and dogs, and indeed, this is the position of Yalkut Yosef (vol. 2, p. 383) and Orĥot Shabbat (19:124). However, it seems more reasonable to assume that muktzeh pertains only to animals with which one does not normally play. Pets whose owners play with them and pick them up all week long would not be muktzeh, and their owners may thus touch them and pick them up on Shabbat. Similarly, seeing-eye dogs are not muktzeh (Igrot Moshe, OĤ 5:22:21; Shulĥan Shlomo 308:74). Although some are stringent, muktzeh is a rabbinic prohibition so the halakha follows those who are lenient.[3]

A fish that jumped out of an aquarium and will presumably stay alive if it is returned may be put back even though it is muktzeh. This is because, when necessary, and when there is no other solution, one may move a muktzeh object to prevent tza’ar ba’alei ĥayim. Even though some are stringent in this case, one may rely on the lenient approach (See SA 305:19; MB ad loc. 70; SSK 27:28).

If a fish in an aquarium dies, and it is possible that if it is left in the aquarium other fish will catch whatever terminal disease it had, then even though the dead fish is muktzeh, it may be removed from the tank to save the remaining fish. If there is a dog or cat in the vicinity, the fish should be fed to them (see SSK 27:29).


[3]. Maharaĥ Or Zaru’a §81 permits carrying pet birds in their cage, maintaining that they are not muktzeh, albeit while noting that Rosh disagrees and maintains that all animals are muktzeh. Indeed, this is the opinion of the majority of poskim according to MB 308:146 and SSK 27:27 (Yabi’a Omer 5:26 states that if one wishes to move birds in order to prevent their suffering, such as if the sun is beating down on them, one may rely on Maharaĥ Or Zaru’a). However, all these discussions relate to birds, which are not commonly carried. In contrast, today people keep house pets and carry them around all week. For this reason, Igrot Moshe states that birds are muktzeh (OĤ 4:16) and succinctly that pets are not (OĤ 5:22:21). This is also the position of R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach in Shulĥan Shlomo 308:74. Others are stringent (Yalkut Yosef vol. 2, p. 383; Orĥot Shabbat 19:124). As I have written above, the halakha follows those who are lenient. Bird cages and aquariums, which are not normally carried, are muktzeh. If one normally moves them around during the week for decorative purposes, then according to R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach they are not muktzeh (Shulĥan Shlomo 308:74:2).
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