Animals on Shabbat

From Halachipedia

Many halachos relate to animals on Shabbat. These include the biblical prohibition to work one's animals on Shabbat as well as not trapping or killing animals on Shabbat. Two very practical topics about animals on Shabbat include whether pets are muktzeh as well as the topic of how to feed animals on Shabbat.


Letting one's Animal Rest on Shabbat

  1. Letting one's animal rest and not do the 39 Melachot on Shabbat is a biblical commandment from the Pasuk לְמַעַן יָנוּחַ, שׁוֹרְךָ וַחֲמֹרֶךָ. The prohibition is called Shevitat Behemto.[1]
  2. One shouldn't take an animal out on Shabbat beyond the eruv with anything that doesn't benefit the animal.[2] There is discussion if this applies to a tag.[3]
  3. Renting out one's work animal (such as a horse, mule, or donkey) to a non-Jew for Shabbat is forbidden because the non-Jew may do work with it.[4]
  4. It's permissible to give to a goy one's animal for Shabbat as long as one doesn't collect a rental fee.[5]
  5. It's even permissible to give the goy one's animal on Shabbat itself.[6]
  6. The commandment applies to making an animal carry in a reshut harabbim and even in a karmelit for something that is categorized as a burden.[7]
  7. Commanding one's animal to perform a melacha on Shabbat is forbidden because of Amirah LeNochri.[8]

Feeding Animals on Shabbat

  1. It is forbidden to feed an animal which doesn't live in your house and doesn't depend on you for food. For example, it is not proper to place wheat before birds on Shabbat Shirah.[9] Otherwise, it is permissible to feed pets, such as by placing food in front of them or pouring fish food into a tank.[10] In either case, a dog may be fed.[11]
  2. One should not unnecessarily exert himself too much in the preparation of the food for an animal. For example, if the dog can eat the meat straight from the bone, one shouldn't cut it into smaller pieces even if he avoids a violation of tochen.[12]
  3. One may not carry food for an animal even on Yom Tov unless there is an eruv.[13]

Killing Insects on Shabbat

  1. It is forbidden to kill insects intentionally on Shabbat, even if they rest on one's skin and may bite (as long as there is no real danger). One may gently remove such insects, but may not place them in a sink or water fountain where they may drown.[14] Although trapping insects is normally forbidden, stinging insects that can inflict substantial pain may be trapped by covering them with an empty cup. Also, if a mosquito is near a small child who may suffer a reaction from a bite it would be permitted.[15]

Playing with a Pet

  1. Moving an animal is forbidden because of Muktzah.[16] Some poskim permit moving a pet that can be used to quiet a child such as a domesticated pet.[17] Touching however, is permitted (as with all other muktzeh items).[18]
  2. According to some poskim, if the animal is in a cage or tank, then the whole cage or tank becomes muktzeh as a base for the muktzeh animals themselves.[19] Others disagree.[20]
  3. A blind person who uses a dog to help him walk my do so on Shabbat even with a leash because he doesn't carry the dog.[21] Others permit it since it is designated to be used and isn't even muktzeh.[22]
  4. Someone who has a dog as a pet and needs to walk it daily, may do so on Shabbat, but he shouldn't lift it. If one is going in a reshut harabim one must be careful that he doesn't let the leash hang by more than a tefach from his hand.[23] One should avoid walking an animal beyond the eruv with anything that does not benefit the animal itself.[24] There is a dispute if this applies to a tag.[25]
  5. A person can put a leash on a dog on Shabbat to alleviate its suffering.[26]
  6. One is permitted to move a pet to alleviate its suffering.[27]
  7. It is forbidden to place something on an animal or remove it from an animal on Shabbat, nor may one lean on an animal on Shabbat.[28]
  8. Moving muktzeh in a slight fashion, moving part of it without moving it completely, is forbidden.[29] Therefore, some say that it is forbidden to pet an animal on Shabbat.[30] Others are lenient.[31]

Seeing Eye Dog

  1. A blind person can use a seeing eye dog on Shabbat.[32]
  2. Holding a dog on a leash to take it for a walk is tiltul min hasad.[33]

Trapping Animals on Shabbat

  1. See the page on the melacha of Tzad (Trapping).
  2. One may kill an animal whose bite poses a danger to a person's life, such as a poisonous snake or yellow scorpion.[34]
  3. One may trap a cooperative animal on shabbat, but one may not trap a non-cooperative animal. [35] However, one may not carry an animal to an enclosed area because they are muktzeh. [36]

Riding an Animal

  1. It's forbidden to ride an animal on Shabbat.[37]
  2. One who mistakenly got onto an animal must come down because of Tzaar Baalei Chayim.[38]

Milking an Animal

  1. It is forbidden to milk an animal on Shabbat, as this is a violation of mifarek, which falls under the melacha of Dosh.[39]
  2. It is permissible to tell a non-Jew to milk an animal for you on Shabbat because if you don't it will cause the animal pain, but the milk is considered muktzeh for the day.[40] If a non-Jew is not available one should let the milk go to waste so that the violation is only dirabanan which would be allowed to save the animal from the pain, and one should try to do it with a shinui.[41] This leniency to allow a Jew to do it, only applies if there are no baby animals who can milk the adults.[42]


  1. Shemot 23:12 is the source of Shevitat Behemto. Rambam Shabbat 20:1 brings it as halacha as does Yalkut Yosef Shabbat vol 1: pg. 33.
  2. Shulchan Aruch 305:1.
  3. Shulchan Aruch 305:17 extends this to a tag. Aruch Hashulchan 305:5 rules stringently even though nowadays a tag shows that the animal has an owner and should not be put to death because of the fear of rabies. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach cited in Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata 27 footnote 33 disagrees since these tags are worn for the benefit of the dog.
  4. Shulchan Aruch O.C. 246:3
  5. The dispute in the Rishonim is brought by the Bet Yosef 305:23:
    • (a) The Hagahot Mordechai (kedushin) writes that it’s permissible to give a small animal to a goy because it’s not usually used for work implying that a large animal would be forbidden because it may do work. The Darkei Moshe writes that the difference is that a large animal would do work which is Deorittah and a small animal would only be traveling more than techum which is Derabbanan (or even if you hold it is Deorittah it’s still not the same Deorittah because it doesn’t get Sekilah).
    • (b) The Kolbo (end of book) in name of Rav Hai Goan writes that one can’t give any animal to a goy because the goy might bring the animal past the techum.
    • (c) The Shibolei HaLeket quotes Rav Hai Goan who said that as long as you’re not renting it on Shabbat (which would clearly be forbidden as in S”A 246:3) and you don’t know that the goy is working it, it’s permitted. However if you see the goy doing work with it one should tell him not to work it.
    • (d) S”A 305:23 rules like the Shibolei HaLeket in name of Rav Hai Goan permitting giving animals to a goy on Shabbat.
    • (e) Even though it's certainly forbidden to rent a animal to a non-Jew, concerning selling/giving one’s animal to a goy there’s a dispute in the Rishonim whether it’s permissible.
    • (f) The reason given by many Achronim (brought by Mishna Brurah 205:78) to differentiate is that the goy is fearful to work the animal if he is only borrowing or perhaps just watching the animal. Therefore since one doesn’t want the goy to work the animal and one doesn’t know about it, it’s permissible. However, renting an animal over Shabbat is forbidden because the goy is free to use the animal as he likes and so he will work it to get his money’s worth.
    • (g) The differentiation of the Gra 305:23 (see Beiur Halacha s.v. VeAf) is just like by Shevitat Avdo the slave is allowed to do work for himself as long as you don’t command him to do work. Therefore, renting one’s animal is forbidden because you’re getting benefit out of it. However, if one gives the animal to a goy, one doesn't get any benefit if the animal does work and so it’s like it was doing work for itself and is permissible. Beiur Halacha explains that if one sees the goy doing work with it one should protest because it looks like one is getting benefit from it.
    • (h) One Nafka Minah is that of the Beiur Halacha, who explains that the language of S”A which is “if one sees the goy working the animal…” fits the explanation of the Gra precisely, however according to the other Achronim the language of one seeing the goy is inaccurate and the same would be true even if one didn’t see the goy but knew that such was true.
  6. Ba'er Heteiv 305:11 writes that implied from S”A is that it’s permissible to give or sell the animal to the goy even on Shabbat itself. However, the Sh”t Ram Alshaker 41 forbids giving it to a goy on Shabbat.
  7. Yalkut Yosef Shabbat vol. 1: pg. 526
  8. The Or Letzion 1:23 proves from the Gemara Shabbat 19a that there exists a rabbinic prohibition of Amirah LeNochri for animals. He explains that there are two reasons that apply to regular Amirah LeNochri: 1) it appears as though the non-Jew is the agent of the Jew working on Shabbat and 2) one is not supposed to speak about weekday activities, such as melacha, on Shabbat. He says that even though the first reason doesn't apply to animals, the second one does.
  9. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 87:18, Magen Avraham 583:5, Mishna Brurah 324:31, Mateh Efrayim 598:11. See Aruch Hashulchan O.C. 324:3 for a possible defense of this minhag, that we're thanking them for singing at Shirat Hayam. Magen Avraham says the same is true of the minhag to throw bread crumbs to the fish during Tashlich. Aruch Hashulchan 324:2 writes that one can feed an animal that is visibly hungry and cannot find food.
    • The Gemara Shabbat 155b establishes that on Shabbat it is permitted to feed animals that rely on your for their sustenance but not animals that don’t rely on sustenance. Rashi explains that the issue involved is doing an excessive effort on behalf of animals that don’t rely upon you. Tosfot Beitzah 24b adds that on Yom Tov there is an additional concern that you might come to trap and so it is forbidden to feed animals even ones which rely on you for sustenance if you might come to trap. Shulchan Aruch 324:11 codifies that you may not feed animals that don’t rely on your sustenance. Therefore, the Magen Avraham 324:7 disapproves of the minhag to feed stray birds on Shabbat Shira.
  10. Shulchan Aruch 324:11, Rabbi Eli Mansour. Beiur Halacha adds that it is even permitted to feed someone else's pets. Yalkut Yosef 324:9, however, says that if the fish can survive without you feeding them, don't feed them.
  11. Mishna Brurah 324:31.
  12. Mishna Brurah 324:3
  13. Mishna Brurah 512:3
  14. Menuchat Ahavah 3:18:3.
  15. The 39 Melachot pg.872
  16. Shulchan Aruch O.C. 308:39, Shulchan Aruch Harav 308:78. The Gemara in Shabbos 128b states that animals are muktzeh. Maggid Mishneh on Rambam Hilchot Shabbat 25:25 says that since they have no use they are in the category of muktzeh machmat gufo. This is the explanation of the Beit Yosef OC 308 s.v. kofin, and Mishna Brurah 308:146. Iggros Moshe OC 4:16 (see however Iggerot Moshe 5:22:21), R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Shmiras Shabbos K'hilchasa 27 - see footnote 96), and R' Ovadia Yosef (Yabiah Omer 5:26) concur. Mishna Brurah 308:146 adds that this would be true even if not moving the animal would cause financial loss.
  17. Yalkut Yosef Shabbat vol. 2 pg. 383, Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata 27:27, Orchot Shabbat 19:124 v. 2 p. 59, Daat Torah 308:39, Kaf Hachayim on Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chayim 308:235:1, Rav Moshe Feinstein (Tiltulei Shabbat p. 118), and Shulchan Aruch Harav 308:78 consider pets to be muktzeh. Tosafot Shabbat 45b s.v. hacha, Mordechai Shabbat 316 and Hagahot Ashri (on Rosh Shabbat 3:21) all cite those who are lenient for this, but themselves are stringent. Rosh quoted in Maharach Or Zarua 82 is also stringent.
    • Rav Moshe Feinstein's opinion although quoted by Rabbi Bodner in Tiltulei Shabbos p. 118 and the corresponding teshuva in Igrot Moshe 5:22:21 further reiterates this point. Nonetheless, in the emendations of R' Mordechai Tendler and R' Shabtay Rappaport of that volume of Igrot Moshe it appears that pets are not muktzeh. In a letter to Rabbi Tzvi Ryzman Ryzman (Moriah v. 36 pp. 358-359), R' Rappaport explains the emendation and that it was approved by Rav Moshe Feinstein. See for more sources on Rav Moshe's opinions about pets on Shabbat.
    • However, Sh"t Halachot Ketanot 45 is lenient and Sh"t Merosh Tzurim 38:6 quotes that Rav Mordechai Eliyahu was lenient as well as the opinion of Rav Aharon Lichtenstein that one shouldn't admonish those who are lenient though proper conduct would be to be stringent. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach in Shulchan Shlomo vol. 2, 308:74 is also lenient. Rav Schachter (Highlights of Melachos Shabbat Part 2, min 68-9) is strict to consider pets muktzeh. See Rabbi Jachter's article here regarding the whole issue.
  18. Yalkut Yosef Shabbat vol. 2 pg. 383
  19. Yabia Omer OC 5:26, Rabbi Eli Mansour
  20. Shemirat Shabbat kihilchatah 18:footnote 62, 27:footnote 96
  21. Yalkut Yosef vol. 2 pg. 384
  22. Shemirat Shabbat Khilchata ch. 18 fnt. 62
  23. Shulchan Aruch 305:16, Yalkut Yosef Shabbat vol. 2 pg. 385. Shulchan Aruch 305:16 adds that one should make sure to hold it so that the leash doesn't hang within a tefach of the ground
  24. Shulchan Aruch 305:1
  25. Shulchan Aruch 305:17, Aruch Hashulchan 305:5 rules stringently even though nowadays a tag shows that the animal has an owner and should not be put to death because of the fear of rabies. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach cited in Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata 27, footnote 33 disagrees since these tags are worn for the benefit of the dog.
  26. shulchan Aruch 308:40, Halachos of Muktzeh p. 119
  27. Sh"t Yabia Omer 5:26. See Chazon Ish 52:16 who permits for tzaar baalei chayim and a concern of a loss. Az Nidbaru 1:79:110 explains that the Chazon Ish was only lenient when both factors apply. Although Magen Avraham 305:11 says that the laws of muktzeh aren't waived for tzaar baalei chayim, Eliya Rabba 305:18 disagrees. Shulchan Aruch Harav 305:26 says that one can be lenient if it will cause great loss. Mishna Brurah 305:70 quotes both opinions and concludes that one can surely make use of a non-Jew to move it in such a situation. See also Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchita 27:28 and 30 and footnote 98
  28. 39 Melachot (vol 3, pg 301) based on Shulchan Aruch 305:8, 18
  29. The Ran 51b writes that moving an item in a slight fashion (Tiltul Bmiksat) is forbidden. See Eliya Rabba 311:23. Bet Yosef 308:40 quotes this as the halacha. Pri Megadim M"Z 336:4 and Mishna Brurah 308:151 agree.
  30. Sheilat Shlomo 1:172, Piskei Teshuvot 308 fnt. 446
  31. Shulchan Aruch 302:11 writes that it is permitted to wipe one’s dirty hands on a horse tail. Biur Halacha quotes the Tosefet Shabbat who is bothered that it is moving muktzeh. Biur Halacha answers that perhaps the hair isn’t part of the animal itself and isn’t muktzeh. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (v. 3 ch. 27 fnt. 53) suggested that the hair isn’t muktzeh since it is designated for using to clean one’s hands. Rav Nevinsal in Byitzchak Yikareh 302:11 echoes this idea.
  32. Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata ch. 18 fnt. 62, Byitzchak Yikareh 308:39
  33. Byizchak Yikareh on mb 308:151
  34. Shulchan Aruch 316:10, Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 25:1
  35. Hazon Ovadia, Page 106
  36. Ach Tov VaHessed, Year 5783, Page 123
  37. The Mishna in Betzah 36b writes that the Rabbinical Gezerot of Shabbat also apply to Yom Tov and includes on the list the prohibition of riding an animal on Shabbat. The Gemara explains that the logic of the Gezerah is that the Rabbis were concerned that a person riding an animal might come to pull a branch off a tree to use as a whip. Beit Yosef 305:18 quotes the Rosh in name of the Yerushalmi that says that riding an animal on Shabbat is forbidden because of Shevitat Behemto. Yalkut Yosef Shabbat vol. 2 page 108 codifies this as halacha
  38. Yalkut Yosef Shabbat vol. 2 pg. 108
  39. Yalkut Yosef Shabbat vol. 2 pg. 110. see there for discussion if this is a torah violation or rabbinic. for more see Zomet Institute
  40. Yalkut Yosef vol 2. pg. 110, Sh"t Yabea Omer 9:30
  41. Yalkut Yosef Shabbat vol 2. pg. 111
  42. Yalkut Yosef Shabbat vol. 2 pg. 112
Category Topic
Mitzvot of Shabbat
Kiddush Levana - Enjoying Shabbat - Fourth meal of Shabbat - Havdalah - Having a meal on Friday - In the Spirit of Shabbat - Kiddush - Lighting Shabbat Candles - Making Early Shabbat - Making one hundred Brachot on Shabbat - Preparing foods on Shabbat - Preparing for Shabbat - Shenayim Mikrah - Kavod Shabbat - Shabbos Davening - Seudat Shabbat - Seudat Shelishit - Lechem Mishneh - Motzei Shabbat - When Does Shabbat Start?
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Allowing Carrying Using an Eruv Chatzerot - Animals on Shabbat - Asking a Jew to work on Shabbat - Asking a non-Jew to work on Shabbat (Amirah LeNochri) - Benefiting from a Violation of Shabbat (Maaseh Shabbat) - Books, notebooks, and papers - Brushing Teeth on Shabbat - Building a structure on Shabbat (Boneh) - Carrying on Shabbat - Cleaning the dishes - Cleaning and Folding Garments on Shabbat - Clearing the table - Cooking (Ofeh and Bishul) - Cosmetics on Shabbat - Dancing and clapping on Shabbat - Electricity on Shabbat - Eruv Chatzerot - Eruvin - Games on Shabbat - Getting dressed on Shabbat - Giving birth on Shabbat - Grinding (Tochen) - Handling objects on Shabbat (Muktzeh) - Infants on Shabbat - Introduction to the Modern Eruv - Kneading (Lash) - Mail on Shabbat - Medicine on Shabbat (Refuah on Shabbat) - Melacha That Begins Before Shabbat - Opening bottles and containers (Boneh) - Plants on Shabbat (Zoreah) - Preparing for after Shabbat (Hachana) - Reading on Shabbat (Daber Davar) - Recreation on Shabbat - Sechirut Reshut - Separating mixtures (Borer) - Squeezing fruits (Sechita) - Speaking on Shabbat (Daber Davar) - Taking a cruise over Shabbat - Taking measurements on Shabbat - Techum - Transactions on Shabbat - Transportation on Shabbat - Going to and Staying in the Hospital on Shabbat - Wages on Shabbat (Sachar Shabbat) - Washing one’s body on Shabbat
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