Friday, February 29, 2008

Are Pets Muktzah?

The Gemara in Shabbos 128b states that animals are muktzeh. The reason behind this is that animals have no use on shabbos. They would then be in the category of muktza machamas gufo (see Mishna Berurah 308:126). The question is, does this issur muktzeh apply nowadays to pets? Or, is it only in previous times when animals were generally used by people for labor purposes?

There is a machlokes rishonim whether an animal that can be used on shabbos to quiet a crying baby is considered muktzeh or not. The Baalei Tosafos (Shabbos 45b d"h hacha) are stringent in this case, although they cite others who are lenient. There are two basic reasons given as to why we would be strict:

1. Quieting a baby is not sufficient use to be considered not muktzeh.

2. Lo Plug Rabbanan - we make no distinction between different kinds of animals, no matter the circumstances.

Based on the stricter opinion in rishonim R' Moshe Feinstein (Iggros Moshe OC 4:16), R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Shmiras Shabbos K'hilchasa 27 - see footnote 96), and R' Ovadia Yosef (Yabiah Omer 5:26) all rule that pets are muktzeh on Shabbos even nowadays.*

*For more on this topic see the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society Volume 23 "Halachic Perspectives on Pets" by Rabbi Howard Jachter. And, obviously, for final rulings seek the psak of your local competent halachic authority.