3 Things Jewish People Should Know Before Adopting a Dog

Are you thinking of adopting a dog? Before you do, it would be prudent to give some thought to the following 3 considerations:

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Dogs and owners walking
Dogs and owners walking

Dog Ownership Is Controversial Amongst Jewish People

You’ve no doubt heard the expression “two Jewish people, three opinions”. Dog ownership is one of those controversial topics that elicits a broad variety of opinions, some of which are contradictory.

There are many Jewish sources that affirm pet ownership to be permissible, assuming that the animals do not endanger people or their property. However, rabbis are not all in agreement about whether dog ownership, specifically, is permissible. For example, rabbis in the Israeli city of Elad have banned the keeping of dogs; yet in the municipality of Misgave, the chief Orthodox rabbi has declared that residents are allowed to keep guard dogs, guide dogs and dogs for emotional support.

If you choose to get a dog, you should be aware that there may be people in your community who will frown on that decision.

Owning a Dangerous Dog Is Prohibited

According to Jewish halacha, it is not only prohibited to own a dangerous dog; it is furthermore prohibited to own a dog that could even be perceived as dangerous.

Why must we be concerned with whether or not a dog appears to be dangerous, even if it isn’t actually a particularly dangerous animal?

There’s a story in the Talmud that sheds light on this prohibition. The story is about a pregnant woman who was so terrified of a barking dog that she miscarried her baby as a result of her encounter with it.

Indeed, there are many Jewish people who are sincerely afraid of dogs. This fear is something we need to be aware of and sensitive to.

If you do decide to adopt a dog, it’s best to choose a dog with a non threatening appearance, a sweet disposition and a gentle demeanor. You should also be sure of choosing an appropriate leash for keeping the dog with you when you walk it. This is one of the methods you can use for reassuring others that you will not allow your dog to cause them harm.

Jewish Law Prohibits Spaying or Neutering Animals

Some of our scholars have inferred from Leviticus 22:24 that it is not permissible for Jewish people to spay or neuter their animals. However, this interpretation has been controversial. There are plenty of Jewish people who either don’t agree with this prohibition or simply ignore it – including officials in the Israeli government, who are actively maintaining a program to neuter the feral cats in Israel.

Some Jews believe that it isn’t a problem for Jewish people to own a neutered animal -- that it is only a problem for a Jewish person to actually commit the act of neutering the animal or requesting that another person do so. If this is your view of the situation, the logical workaround would be to adopt a dog that has already been neutered.

Now that you’ve given some thought to these 3 important things, you’re better equipped to make a well informed decision about whether or not it would be a good idea for you to adopt a dog.