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Walking a Dog on Shabbat

We have a neighbor who isn’t well, so lately we’ve been walking his dog for him. Are we allowed to take her out on Shabbat as well? There is no eiruv where we live.

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

It’s nice of you to help out your neighbor. Yes, it’s fine to walk a dog on Shabbos. If there is no eiruv (a type of enclosure permitting carrying in public), the dog can carry things for its benefit or welfare – such as a leash or a bandage, but not things which are of no direct benefit to it, such as an identity tag. (A Jew’s animal actually does have to “rest” on Shabbat in its own fashion (see Exodus 23:12: “in order that your ox and donkey rest…”). But anything it carries for its own sake is considered part of its regular accouterments and is as if it is “wearing” that item (just as humans may “carry” the clothes they wear as well as other needed items such as crutches or a pair of glasses). Note also that a leash is often for the dog’s benefit – so you can keep it away from trouble.)

If there is no eiruv, you should be careful that the leash does not sag within 3 inches of the ground (at which point the leash no longer appears to be guiding the dog but looks like an unnecessary item for it – which it may not carry). You should also be careful to hold the leash at or near its end, without 3 inches of loose cord protruding outside your hand. (The reason is because the part of the leash beyond your hand looks like it’s being carried by you and not the dog.)

According to many authorities, an animal should not be directly moved on Shabbos (because it is muktzah). But you can take it out and let it walk while you hold the leash. You are even allowed to tug on the leash to direct it, so long as you are not actually dragging it along. (In cases of loss or where the animal is suffering, you are allowed to drag an animal using a leash (or push it from behind) on private property only – since “partial moving” of muktzah items is allowed in extenuating circumstances.)

See this article for more about pets in Judaism.

(Sources: Shulchan Aruch O.C. 305:1,16; Mishna Berurah 1,11,51; O.C. 308:40 with Mishna Berurah; Shemirat Shabbat K’Hilchata I 27:8-9.)

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