Why Do I Never See Orthodox Jews With Dogs or Any Other Pets?


Dear Jew in the City,

I have never seen any Orthodox Jews with pets. Is there a reason for this? Or does it just so happen that I don’t know any Orthodox people who are great pet lovers. Thanks!


Leorah from Canada

Dear Leorah-

Thanks for your question. It’s something I’ve wondered about before, and the answer is quite complex, mixing history, sociology, and Jewish law.

I’m not sure what sort of interactions you’ve had with Orthodox Jews, but if you think about it, a dog is the main pet you’d see a person out and about with. So unless you’ve been inside the homes of many religious Jews, you probably wouldn’t know if there was a cat, a bird, or a fish tucked away somewhere. But let’s start with dogs since they’re the most public of pets. When it comes to dogs, there seems to be a range of feelings that people have, from very positive to very negative. Let’s start with the Torah sources, then we’ll talk about history and sociology.

In terms of the Torah’s view on dogs, the most famous reference is in the book of Shemos (Exodus). As the Jews were leaving Egypt, we’re told, “And against the children of Israel, no dog wagged its tongue.” Or in other words, the dogs are praised for keeping quiet so that the Jews could escape without drawing attention to themselves.

The Maharal – a 16th century rabbi from Prague who is best known for the legend of having created a golem – wrote that a dog is called “kelev” in Hebrew because it comes from the words “k’lev,” which means “like the heart.” It sounds a whole lot like the expression we say in English, “man’s best friend.”

However, there are some considerations one must take into account when owning a dog. In the Talmud, there is a prohibition against owning a dangerous animal. Of course not all dogs are dangerous, but the halacha (law) is pretty clear that it’s prohibited to own a dangerous one. The halacha, goes one step further, though. It is prohibited to own an animal that could be perceived as dangerous, even if it’s not actually dangerous, because there is a certain damage that the fear of the animal could cause others and Torah living is very concerned with how one person’s actions affect another’s.

The Talmud gives over a story of a pregnant woman who’s petrified of a barking dog she passes on the street. The owner assures her that the bark is worse than the bite, but the woman informs him that she has already miscarried due to her immense fear. In our old building, there was a guy who had two pit bulls. The guy was kind of scary looking, the pit bulls were very of scary looking, and their leashes were made out of chains! I personally have positive feelings about dogs without being a super dog lover, but these dogs scared me and they especially scared me when my children were around. Pit bulls have a reputation of being aggressive, and every time I was in the elevator with them and my kids, I would think about stories of pit bulls attacking children.

My husband and I both had dogs growing up, and although we don’t have one now, we’ve raised our kids to be comfortable around them (pit bull paranoia aside), but just the other day, as we were out bike riding, my daughter, who’s just getting used to no training wheels, got pounced on by a dog that was bigger than her and knocked off the bike. The dog got mud all over her face, scratched her a bit, and shook her up. My daughter was able to pull herself  together pretty quickly, but you can imagine that if my daughter had a pre-existing fear of dogs, this incident could have really caused her great emotional distress.

So to sum up our sources, dogs seems to be viewed positively and are fine to own as long as they are neither physically dangerous, nor intimidating to others. However, there are more considerations that come into play as to why you’re not seeing so many Orthodox Jews with pets, and the next thing to look at is history. There is a history of dogs being used to intimidate Jews, first in the pogroms and later in the Holocaust, and if you think about it, fear of dogs is something that seamlessly passes from one generation to the next, even if the later generation has no reason to be afraid. All that is needed is a kid seeing his parent’s fear.

The people who are the closest to the old country, who have mixed in the least with Western dog-loving culture, is the ultra-Orthodox community, who happen to also look the most visibly “Orthodox.” I believe that many of them still hold on to this fear of dogs based on what happened to previous generations and having never gotten a chance to have positive dog experiences. Therefore, it’s pretty uncommon to see people in this community with dogs and it is quite common to see people in this community petrified of dogs. (Plus, in general, this is a community that’s more up on Torah learning, so they even have sources to back up their fear of dangerous animals.)

You have probably passed Modern or Centrist Orthodox Jews walking dogs on the street without even realizing it, either because they dress modestly but more stylishly and blend in, or because they don’t dress according to the laws of Jewish modesty at all and aren’t recognizably Orthodox.

Another thing to keep in mind is that many times pets get introduced into a household because a person is living alone and wants a companion or a couple doesn’t feel ready to have kids and wants to try out a pet as a practice run. But in the Orthodox circles, the practice run for having kids is usually having kids!

Then once all those kids are born and being cared for and paid for, many people don’t have time, energy, or money to add another life into the mix. (We’ve had a few fish, but that’s the biggest commitment to pet ownership we’ve made despite my kids’ desires for bigger, cuddlier pets.)

So, I think that you are correct that you’ve noticed the most “Orthodox” looking Jews are not walking around the streets with pets (namely dogs), but, I would say that there are still a fair number of Orthodox families with smaller pets at home or who ARE on the street with dogs, but you just didn’t realize they were Orthodox.

Hope this question no longer dogs you!


All the best,

Allison (aka Jew in the City)

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  • Avatar photo Simone Shapiro says on December 4, 2011

    An other thing to consider is the laws around pets and shabbes observance: can you open cans to feed them, can you walk them on a lease if there is no erev, can you carry their mess, etc. Sometimes people find it so complicated and get different opinions from different rabbis that they just decide it is simpler not to have a pet, especially a dog.

    • Avatar photo Shimon says on December 12, 2014

      To Simone- If you check out Shulhan Arukh hilchos shmirat -ha-behamah (guarding animals)- you will see that walkig a dog with a leash and a collar to protect the animal (sans the tags) is absolutely permitted.Cans of dog food can be opened before Shabbos and placed in tight containers. Better yet, use kibble. The only difficulty I can see is carrying a bag of their waste until a proper waste container is found.
      That’s why I live in a house with a yard. There are, however, ways to deal with this problem.

    • Avatar photo malka says on February 17, 2019

      nobody should feed their dog canned food, on erev shabbat fill their bowl with dried food or give them raw chicken drumsticks or wings, before their walk, take them around your backyard to do their poos, then walk them, it is a torah law that we look after and care for our animals, whatever they may be, they bring us unconditional love and compassion, so it’s our duty to look after them.

      • Avatar photo Larry says on March 15, 2021

        You should never give an animal chicken with bones in it.

      • Avatar photo Shoshi Satloff says on November 15, 2021

        NEVER give a dog chicken bones – neither raw nor cooked.

    • Avatar photo Heaven says on June 25, 2022

      I bet those dogs weren’t real Pitbulls. Real American Pitbulls aren’t muscular. https://www.therealpitbull.com/facts/
      A lot (but not all) of so called pitbulls are non pitbulls misidentified as pitbulls. The cane carso is one example and because of that I don’t trust anyone who said this is a Pitbull or pitbull attacks. I only trust experts.

    • Avatar photo Neal Sausen says on July 17, 2022

      I think everyone should own a a JACK RUSSELL TERRIER!….the best breed! they’re great with kids and a great family dog extremely smart and loving and please remember always:…. ADOPT…DON’T SHOP”!

  • Avatar photo Tehila says on December 4, 2011

    I know a hassidic family that loves pets, of all kinds. They constantly adopt abandoned or stray dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, and more. (although sometimes the pets don’t get along so well with each other…) Even though it isn’t common, if an ultra-Orthodox family really wants animals they will get some.

  • Avatar photo Shuky says on December 4, 2011

    Another thing to consider is everyday interaction with dogs. There are lots of questions concerning halacha with pets at home. On such halacha that comes to mind is washing your hands after touching/playing with one. That is easy to fix, but I have met people that along with the hassle of dealing with animals on Shabbat have just shied away from it. In my experiences it is very common to see halachically ‘easier’ pets in one’s home, such as fish.

  • Avatar photo KE says on December 4, 2011

    @Simone – very few dogs are fed EXCLUSIVELY canned food. Most are kibble fed and most of the time the kibble is inside. My dog is fed a raw prey diet (I’m Modern O) and I prepare the meat into individual portions when I buy it so all I have to do is pull it out of the freezer and put it in her bowl. According to Halacha, you ARE allowed to carry a leash to walk your dog on Shabbos if it is clear you are walking a dog and the leash is taught, not dragging (coming from my local Chabad Rabbi). Poo bags must be pre-torn and disposed of outside in a dumpster (as opposed to carrying them from the public into the private). MOST of my Ultra-O neighbors have a pet of some form and we get great enjoyment out of walking the dogs together on Shabbos morning before shul.

  • Avatar photo MS says on December 4, 2011

    thanks for the question and the answer. I’ve recently wondered about this myself. Good to know.

  • Avatar photo DevoK says on December 4, 2011

    Well, come to Israel. You’ll see plenty of Orthodox Jews with all kinds of pets.

    • Avatar photo R.Louis says on May 15, 2013

      I would think that the health benefits of a calm, happy and much safer dog that isn’t contributing to dog over-population – not to mention the greatly reduced risk of your dog getting into a fight, and some evidence it can reduce cancer – would be adequate reason to neuter a pet even under religious law.

      • Avatar photo mark watts says on May 26, 2013

        I have no idea what you are talking about..only to say 7 people are alive today because of my dogs heroic actions..and for that he has been shot at spat at cars and bikes driven at him..so I no longer let him go abroad to earthquake torn cities. Its these kind of people that discriminate and spread fear about mans best friend. My dogs would willingly give their lives to save me and my family without thinking about it. You know that a dog is 100% loyal…100% unconditional love for its owner…not many people can be labled this!!

        • Avatar photo ApleKing says on May 18, 2019

          I’m not Jewish, but have lived around & worked for Jews often enough to be familiar with the more common observations, such as keeping kosher and observing high holy holidays. Obviously, Judaism (like other faiths) have degrees of orthodoxy and interpretations. I see your confusion to the previous comment. My analysis was that they hold a pro-neutering position, which as a professional animal care specialist, I concur. I’m am going to suppose that ‘altering’ an animal may be against certain interpretations of Jewish law. At least that’s how I read it….

  • Avatar photo Daniella says on December 4, 2011

    And yet another consideration: the halachic problem with neutering. Not neutering a male dog essentially makes him more territorial and therefore dangerous, and many families do not want to have to deal with puppies/kittens all the time. The halachic grounds for neutering an animal are weak and many authorities hold that it is prohibited except for health reasons.

    • Avatar photo Allison says on December 5, 2011

      Good point, although we adopted a puppy that was already spade before we got her so that might be a way around this?!

    • Avatar photo Kathleen says on July 12, 2015

      Neutering does NOT make a male dog more aggressive, more territorial. This is a myth. We own standard poodles. All male. All unaltered. There is good research and there are very good training instructors who teach the art and importance of proper, positive reinforcement, when inviting any creature into your life. Barking, territorial dogs are trained into that behavior. Or the behavior is seen as beneficial by uneducated people. The Creator’s divine attributes and His incredible creativity and intelligence are seen in what He has made. Read Job to see how intimately He knows and cares for them. It is a blessing to care for His creation. But find good teachers who will not harm animals with their training methods or by sharing unfounded myths.

  • Avatar photo maidela says on December 6, 2011

    Actually, I’m presently learning in seminary in Israel and we were discussing neutering/spaying a dog or cat and one of the rabbis said that the way around this is to go to a non-Jewish veterinarian and sell him your pet before he spays/neuters and then buy your pet back after the deed is done. Easy squeezy!!!

    • Avatar photo Sharon says on August 20, 2013

      If you adopt a pet from a shelter, they will most likely be spayed or neutered before adoption, usually by non-Jewish vets. In addition, you will be rescuing an animal that would otherwise be killed or living a miserable life.

  • Avatar photo Leta says on December 6, 2011

    Come on over to Wesley Hills, NY. We are an Orthodox family with a 110 lb. golden doodle. There are many families here with dogs and cats.

  • Avatar photo Lhyzz says on December 6, 2011

    My grandmother was modern Orthodox, or Orthodox-ish, and she had cats as long as I can remember. In regards to Shabbos, she made sure there was food and water out beforehand, didn’t scoop the litter during, and generally felt that if there was anything else she had to do in order to ensure the health of her cat that might break Shabbos, she was obligated (by the Torah) to care for the wellbeing of any animal in her care before worrying about prohibitions.

    • Avatar photo Allison says on December 6, 2011

      Lhyzz, thanks for your comment, but just to clarify. A pet owner not only can feed the animal on Shabbos – he MUST and he must feed the animal before he feeds himself. It is certainly possible to care for a pet on Shabbos according to Jewish law without having to break any rules (under normal circumstances).

    • Avatar photo Jocelyn says on August 30, 2014

      My family was Orthodox growing up although we are considered Conservative/Reform now. My Bubbe and Zayde were Orthodox and kept Shabbos to the best of their ability. They LOVED animals particularly cats. We were taught the same principle as Allison mentioned in regards to pet care. We always had cats growing up and we also had two dogs. We were taught to be responsible for the animals welfare BEFORE we took care of ourselves.

  • Avatar photo Marcy says on December 6, 2011

    I live in a pretty frum neighborhood and there are more dogs (and assorted other pets) than I can count. We have a dog and a cat. As for Shabbos, it’s never been a problem. The animals are fed dry food, which on Shabbos gets some chicken or brisket added to it – not to mention their favorite of all treats….challah.

  • Avatar photo Mushtaq says on December 7, 2011

    Interesting discussion.

    I am a Muslim living in Karachi, Pakistan.

    Most of our scholars prohibit keeping dogs on different pretext.

    Ironically, in Quran, dog is described to be kept by a group of virtous people. So its good to have dog.

    I think, its natural to have/keep dog which is the most loyal among the pets.


  • Avatar photo Emily says on December 8, 2011

    Just a few weeks ago I was wondering if pets need to eat Kosher? I asked my Orthodox friend and the during the discussion, she turned me on to this fun and informative website.

  • Avatar photo Ray says on December 11, 2011

    I,ve seen a few Jewish people in Hendon, London with dogs.

  • Avatar photo Pinny says on December 22, 2011

    Re Emily:

    No, pets owned by Jews do NOT have to eat kosher, so they can eat pork, etc. HOWEVER they CANNOT be fed pet food that is made from milk & meat together and they cannot be fed chametz (leaven) that was owned by a Jew over Passover.

    The reason for the latter 2 prohibitions is because the OWNER is prohibited from benefiting from these. Feeding them to one’s pets is a form of benefit in that the owner saves the money he would have had to spend on other pet food.

    • Avatar photo Frum Femme says on November 21, 2013

      But then how would you wash the bowls? Do you do it outside with a spigot, or have a separat e insert for the kitchen?

      We have 1 dog and 2 cats…all strays/shelter. We feed them kosher and treat the bowls as fleishig (and milk is bad for cats anyway according to our vet).

  • Avatar photo Leorah says on January 22, 2012

    Thanks for everyone’s comments. very informative.

  • Avatar photo melissa says on February 3, 2012

    I’m confused by Pinny’s comment about the milk & meat petfood. My cat Snowball loves dairy, but is lactose intolerant, as most cats are. So, am I to never allow him the joy of dairy cat food/treats? I’d like to think not. He deserves all the happiness in the world.

    Also, I’ve heard that Orthodoxy are not allowed to pet their animals during Shabbos, due to some Torah citing. (not sure which book/chapter). Is this found to be common? I am all about observance, but I would not be able to enjoy Shabbos without snuggling the cats! Please advise.

    Thanks for your insights

    • Avatar photo Allison says on February 3, 2012

      Thanks for your comment, Melissa. What Pinny is referring to is the Torah prohibition of “al tivashel g’dee b’chalev imo” or “don’t cook a kid in its mother’s milk.” That prohibition is repeated three times in the Torah because there are actually three different parts to it. Don’t *cook* milk and meat together, don’t *eat* milk and meat together, don’t *derive benefit* from milk and meat being together.

      The first two parts are self- explanatory, the third part about deriving benefit has different applications, but among them, is the prohibition of giving food which has both milk and meat in it to your pet. So, back to Snowball. I have to say your explanation has left me confused! Snowball loves dairy. I got that part. But Snowball is lactose intolerant. I got that part too. It’s the ” am I to never allow him the joy of dairy cat food/treats?” part I don’t get. It would appear that you shouldn’t give Snowball dairy cat treats since he’s lactose intolerant. You make no mention of milk and meat being combined in these treats. So confusion aside, I’ll explain it like this. If you’re OK giving Snowball dairy treats (that have no meat in them) b/c he loves dairy – go for it! If the only dairy cat treats are combined with meat, then that is a problem according to Jewish law.

      In terms of are you not allowed to pet your pet on Shabbos? It depends on who you ask. Animals (the wild kind) are not supposed to be touched unless they are in pain and could be helped by being touched. They’re considered “muktzeh” or in the category of having no Shabbos purpose and therefore being off limits during Shabbos.

      There seems to be a disagreement about pets, though. It has been argued by certain prominent halachic authoritie that household pets are not included in the category of muktzah at all, because they have an “immediate practical use” — namely, providing people with pleasure and companionship. There are others who disagree, maintaining that the rabbinic prohibition against handling animals on Shabbat was imposed across the board.

  • Avatar photo Corrita says on March 6, 2012

    Your answers are extremely thorough, thank you for your service.

    • Avatar photo Dawn says on January 10, 2013

      Julia, I think it is so nice that you searched and found the site. I am jewish but not Orthodox and was talking to my brother the other day who lives in a very Orthodox area of L.A. as well. So, I too looked this up and got here. What a phenomenal site, and how wonderful it is to see someone who is not Jewish engaging in these posts. I love to see people reach for information into areas outside their norm. As a Jew living in the U.S. I do my best to be educated on the ways of other cultures and religions which surround me. It is nice to know there are non-Jews who do the same.

  • Avatar photo Julia says on March 24, 2012

    This is fascinating, so glad I found this post! I’m not Jewish, but I live in an Orthodox neighborhood in Los Angeles. I get such varied reactions to my dogs, a Mastiff and an American Bulldog. Mostly my neighbors keep far away from them, and I thought there must some religious/cultural reason for this. Now I understand. Although they’re both very gentle, I know they look intimidating.

  • Avatar photo lou fridkis says on August 1, 2012

    You forgot to mention the issues of having a pet on Shabbos & yom tov: muktzah, trapping; and on pesah: hometz may not be fed to animals; and the issue that animals are tamay

  • Avatar photo Deborah says on October 24, 2012

    I think Melissa misunderstood it to mean that a cat or dog cannot have either, instead of reading it correctly that either one is OK alone, but not both together. Thanks for clarifying it.

  • Avatar photo David says on November 16, 2012

    Shalom from Paris!

    I wondered if cats were mentioned at all in the torah?

    Thank you very much!

    • Avatar photo Rabbi Jack Abramowitz says on June 21, 2013

      The domestic house cat (as opposed to big cats, like lions) is not mentioned anywhere in the Torah, not in all of Tanach (the entire Jewish Bible, including the Torah, the books of the Prophets, and the Writings).

      Aside: I’m Orthodox and I have owned dogs!

  • Avatar photo Brian Levy says on January 21, 2013

    I am a Torah observant Jew. Having said that, I am disgusted at the hypocrisy of the fear/loathing of animals in the religious community. Toting around a Sefer all day does not make you a kind human being…. The business of pets being “muktzah” is just fanatical garbage. Pets are not “work animals.” People continually knock on my door asking money for this Yeshiva and that yet seem repulsed by pets that are indeed part of my family. No more. I’m going to show these people the door…

    • Avatar photo Allison says on January 22, 2013

      Thanks for your comment, Brian. I can’t speak for the people you’ve encountered and I’m certainly not into people being judgmental, but I think you need to consider that a) dogs were used as weapons against Jews in Europe and b) not being around animals in general makes people not comfortable with them. They certainly shouldn’t give someone else a hard time about it, since they are certainly opinions that say that having a pet is completely fine, but in some circles, pets (dogs especially) are so foreign and even scary, they might not even realize how closed-minded they’re behaving.

  • Avatar photo mark watts says on January 30, 2013

    My dogs have saved many lives (search and rescue)they do not discriminate..they absolutely LOVE saving someone whos allmost DEAD!!Also did you know that theres a dog for EVERY disabilliy..even diabetics..and epilectics Also you cannot catch anything from a dog..thier mouth is cleaner than humans..well iam a vetenary surgeon so i can assure you its true. Dogs have enough predudice to deal with so i will step up and try and quell thier (BAD) rep. They would give thier life to save thier owners family 100% loyalty and unconditional love..if only people were half this good. “MANS BEST FRIEND”

    • Avatar photo MARK J says on April 21, 2018

      Mr. Watts, I echo the sentiments in your post, so please forgive me for being skeptical that you are a veterinarian surgeon. Your statements that “you cannot catch anything from a dog” and “[I] can assure you its [sic] true” are simply uninformed, and any “vet” that says so is a quack. I suggest you research diseases that can cross the species barrier, i.e., zoonotic diseases, the deadliest of which is rabies. Lore about horrible deaths from rabid-dog bites might actually account for some of the (largely) irrational but deep-seated fears described in the postings above.

  • Avatar photo Alex says on February 28, 2013

    Great Article, I’m not Jewish but I live next to a Hasidic neighborhood in Brooklyn,NY and was interested why I was getting the reactions I was to my dog when we walk down the street, Now I know. Very Informative.


  • Avatar photo Yaffa says on June 20, 2013

    Just to let you know I’m an Orthodox Jew with 2 dogs, I live on a block of other Orthodox Jews who also have dogs, cats, birds and reptiles. We live in a very Frum area of New York so you see it is not uncommon for religious Jews to own pets it just not done by many.

  • Avatar photo Howard says on July 20, 2013

    I wonder if the orthodox dogs eat only Kosher dog food?

    • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on July 20, 2013

      the food doesn’t have to be kosher BUT a Jew is not supposed to benefit from milk and meat being eaten together, so it’s prohibited to feed it to a pet and on Passover, a Jew’s not supposed to own leaven, so the dog food on Passover needs to be with no grains.

      • Avatar photo John Baptist says on June 1, 2020

        Unleavened means to have not been made with yeast, it does not mean to be made without grains. Leaven or yeast was often used biblically as a metaphor for sin, so something unleavened would mean without sin.:)

        • Avatar photo Yehupetz.com says on September 7, 2020

          No need to non-Jewsplain leaven; when it comes to Passover, any of the main 5 grains are presumed to be possibly chametz.

  • Avatar photo Britni W says on February 14, 2014

    I hope you do not mind revisiting an old post. I am a Baalat Teshuva(in the process of becoming observant, not fully observant yet) but an currently studying with the goal of going to veterinary school. Do you know of any Halachot that are especially pertinent to either my studies or being a veterinarian? The comments appear to say that a Jew cannot perform the spaying or neutering surgery, it that true? What is the basis?

    • Avatar photo Rabbi Jack Abramowitz says on February 14, 2014

      It’s true. There’s a mitzvah in the Torah specifically prohibiting neutering animals – Leviticus 22:24: “Do not offer to G-d an animal whose testicles are bruised, crushed, torn or cut, and do not do such things in your land.” The underlying rationale is that G-d created animals and people to populate the world (Genesis 1:22, 1:28, et al.). To castrate an animal goes counter to that purpose. (More here: http://www.ou.org/torah/mitzvot/taryag/mitzvah291/ )

      Neutering is even problematic for non-Jews under the seven Noachide laws (http://www.ou.org/torah/mitzvot/taryag/noachide_laws_5/ ).

      Spaying is not prohibited by this verse because the obligation to procreate is only incumbent on the male of the species. Women are not obligated to procreate if they don’t want to because it poses a danger to them (see http://www.ou.org/torah/mitzvot/taryag/mitzvah1/ ).

      I hope this answers your question!

  • Avatar photo kashaman says on July 7, 2014

    We had a dog. I am a Jewish Yankee from Maine who got religion and my wife was a Mennonite
    Veterinarian converted by Bobov. He helpe us off eacj others nerves as per Rabbinical advice. He died Shabbos. Jewish tradition avoids negativity so I borrow an insight that is rather uncomfortable :

    “DOG, n. A kind of additional or subsidiary Deity designed to catch the overflow and surplus of the world’s worship. This Divine Being in some of his smaller and silkier incarnations takes, in the affection of Woman, the place to which there is no human male aspirant. The Dog is a survival –an anachronism. He toils not, neither does he spin, yet Solomon in all his glory never lay upon a door-mat all day long, sun-soaked and fly-fed and fat, while his master worked for the means wherewith to purchase the idle wag of the Solomonic tail, seasoned with a look of tolerant recognition.”

    Ambrose Bierce quotes (American Writer, Journalist and Editor, 1842-1914)

  • Avatar photo Rotem Cohen says on October 31, 2014

    Thanks for this lovely piece and fascinating discussion!
    I am from Israel and my best friend, humi, has a high eq and a true jewish heart!
    in israel dogs and animals in general attract a lot of positive attention not only because they are so cute and fun but also because they contribute to the strength of our country (for example: the story of Azit, the paratrooper dog and the military unit called Oketz).
    There’s also a very strong vegan movement and some of the arguments against eating meat involves jewish religious reasoning.
    Im encouraging you all to visit us here in israel and be convinced by how much love we give to dogs and pets in general!
    Shabbat shalom from Israel

  • Avatar photo Joe says on June 6, 2015

    Alison you missed the only real reason. Dogs are substitutes for children for many people. Orthodox Jews have real children and don’t need, or have time for, substitute children, whereas Reform Jewish women have to a large degree given up on having their own children, and need dogs.

    • Avatar photo Sara says on June 14, 2015

      Ridiculous. I know several Orthodox families with many children *and* dogs. And some Reform women with big families (I don’t know many Reform people).

      You are a motzi shem ra.

    • Avatar photo Janet says on September 20, 2019

      Oh my. I am so glad I do not have any association with some of you. Growing up in an orthodox home, we always had a dog. My Orthodox bubbie had no problem with our pets and had no problem with dog sitting when we went on vacation. I had children and still had an indoor dog so I didn’t “need” a dog as a substitute child. We had / have dogs because we want them.

      • Avatar photo froike says on February 21, 2020

        To love Hashem is to love his creations…including Dogs! Some believe that Dogs have the ability to see The Angel of Death and Elijah The Prophet too.

  • Avatar photo David says on August 2, 2015

    Thanks for posting the clarification. I took my dog for a walk on the beach where we live and there were about 20 orthodox Jews having a picnic. My dog is very sweet and well known on the beach. The groups reaction was one of anger and fear; one guy kicked at her and said “take it away, I don’t like it” and the kids scurried into their tents. We passed and smiled, but I was a bit offended. After reading this article it helped me understand. I won’t take it personally. Thank you.

  • Avatar photo Diane Jessup says on September 13, 2015

    I was fascinated by the above discussion! I am not Jewish (nor Christian) but I have to say that the Jewish thoughts have always made sense to me (well, not all the ultra detailed stuff, but the basics).

    Question: this thing about not owning an animal that is dangerous, ok, on the surface I get that, but how did the Jewish farmers get around owning bulls and stallions and rams? These can be very dangerous animals. More people get killed by these types of animals every year than ever do by “intimidating looking dogs”. Is there any writings specific to these types of animals? Also, curious about the not neutering – that’s fine with me, but find it hard to believe that their sheep herds were ALL RAMS and not wethers? Look forward with real interest to your response and THANK YOU for a VERY interesting discussion!

    • Avatar photo Rabbi Jack Abramowitz says on September 17, 2015

      It’s a kind of cost-benefit analysis. A bull might be dangerous but it serves a purpose. The same is true for a ram. A dog, on the other hand, was not a household pet back in the day – it was an attack animal whose primary purpose was to injure and/or intimidate. (Nevertheless, the possibility of injury from livestock exists and is addressed in great detail in the Talmud.)

      It’s like the difference between owning a car and a gun. Cars kill far more people but we’re more willing to accept that possibility because of the usefulness of their primary purpose, transportation. Those who oppose gun ownership do so because killing * is * their primary purpose. (I don’t want to get into a whole second-amendment thing but I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the difference between owning a vicious dog and a gun in Jewish law: a dog has a mind of its own and can act without the owner. Owning a non-living weapon is actually less problematic from that standpoint.)

  • Avatar photo Coneyro says on September 20, 2015

    I had no idea that there was a problem with keeping animals. I’ve learned a lot from this discussion. I’ve always had pets of every kind. My Orthodox acquaintances never mentioned anything to me. Now I understand why my son’s Rabbi asked why, when entering my house and seeing my hamsters, “Why do you keep such filthy vermin in your home?”. And now looking back, no religious person I’ve known has owned a dog or cat. I guess my friends had integrity, and criticism of my pets wasn’t worth their time or effort. A belated “Thank you.”

    • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on September 20, 2015

      Thanks for your comment Coneyro, but there are many Orthodox Jews who have pets. Only some find some problematic.

  • Avatar photo Neil says on May 5, 2016

    Fascinating subject that I stumbled upon. I’m wondering if the urban status of so many Jews also contributed to the lack of dog-owning. My family and I are all from the five boroughs, and no one who lives here has ever owned a dog. I love dogs, and I’ve never thought myself equipped (or having enough space) to own one. However, family members who have moved to the suburbs do have dogs, because it seems to represent the American suburban ideal, and when people move back from the suburbs into the city, they bring their dog-loving ways with them. But if your grandparents, parents and you still live in Brooklyn, you don’t gain much dog-owning experience. But I suppose this theory can be easily refuted by looking at the Orthodox communities in more suburban Los Angeles or Rockland County, and their lack of dog-ownership as well. But I do wonder if dog-owning represents a certain assimilation to American culture that might seem unkosher.

  • Avatar photo ROSARIO PEREIRA says on August 11, 2016

    Come On! security in Israel owns and trains dogs. I have had a scary experience with one such that was sent after me in the docks where my ship had made fast. My knowledge of dogs came to good use there. It was remotely handled by a dog whistle no handler in sight. A scary experience even for me.

  • Avatar photo Avigdor Halakha says on December 21, 2016

    All I shall say is this “Of all the animals that walk on all fours, those that walk on their paws are unclean for you; whoever touches their carcasses will be unclean till evening. 28 Anyone who picks up their carcasses must wash their clothes, and they will be unclean till evening. These animals are unclean for you.” Leviticus 11:27

    I don’t think this refers only to eating those animals that have paws, which obviously includes dogs and cats, but also to raising them as pets since you are still in direct contact with them and they are unclean. Even if you just touch a dog you become unclean. So dogs and cats are a no-no for me.

    • Avatar photo Rabbi Jack Abramowitz says on December 21, 2016

      First of all, you’re ignoring the word carcasses. “Anyone who picks up their carcasses … will be unclean till evening.”

      That having been said, what is the ramification of being ritually unclean? Absolutely nothing. When the Temple was standing, one could not go there or eat sanctified food (such as sacrifices) until he had purified himself. Even so, one was permitted to intentionally render himself ritually unclean and it wasn’t sinful to do so. One could go months and months in such a condition with no repercussion or consequence whatsoever. Nowadays, when we don’t ever go to the Temple or eat sanctified food, there is no reason at all to avoid becoming ritually impure.

      Lots of normal activities render one impure, from entering a hospital (or a funeral home, cemetery, etc.) to having a baby. I would not recommend that one attempt to refrain from all types of impurity, nor is there any reason to do so!

      • Avatar photo Molly A Warrendorf says on December 12, 2017

        A carcass means they’re dead right? Of course you should not pick up a dead anything as you might catch disease.

        • Avatar photo Artie Whitefox says on March 31, 2021

          Correct. That is the unclean that the Bible is talking about.

  • Avatar photo Retta Jones says on April 19, 2020

    All this crap about pet animals is ridiculous. BTW, there are NO bad dogs, just bad owners.

    • Avatar photo Artie Whitefox says on March 31, 2021

      You are correct as well.

  • Avatar photo Artie Whitefox says on March 31, 2021

    People need to learn how to read dog body language.

  • Avatar photo Heaven says on June 25, 2022

    It’s the reason why I left the pitbull debate. Neither side know what a true pitbull is. Some do, but not all. There are people that consider a non pitbull like the a boxer or a cane carso to be a pitbull. Like if people don’t know what a pitbull is from either side, then I’m out.


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