What’s the Jewish viewpoint on having pets such as dogs and cats around the house?
The question is also what’s the Jewish viewpoint about eating lukshen? The answer is that there’s no Jewish viewpoint. You want the Jewish viewpoint on every petty issue?! So I’ll tell you. The Jewish viewpoint about eating macaroni is it should be kosher, that’s all. And you have to make a brocha.
However, I must tell you, there is one thing about pets. They shouldn’t be a nuisance to other people! That’s a Jewish viewpoint. If you learn gemara you learned that if you have a dog that always remains politely behind the fence. But then, when people go by, your dog rushes up to the fence and gives a loud bark, and their hearts stop beating for a moment, then you have to worry about your Olam Habah. That is a Jewish viewpoint. And this, if you didn’t learn gemara you’d never know it.
There’s a gemara about that (see Bava Kama 79b, 83a). You have to be careful that your animal should not frighten people. Here’s a man who has a dog and when you pass by, the dog starts growling and you walk by apprehensively, nervously. You’re worried – you think maybe he’ll tear your trousers; and sometimes he does! A rabbi, a neighbor of mine in East Flatbush, got his trousers torn. I was bitten by a dog too! I called the cops. And I was cursed out by the owner for calling them. He said, “My dog is helpful.” His dog is helpful! That means you can enjoy a bite by my dog; it’s worth it. A meshugeneh!
An Orthodox Jew is the only one who knows about this. Of course, there are Orthodox Jews who are ignorant as well. But they’re not Orthodox, not Orthodox enough. If you didn’t learn, and you don’t practice, then you’re not an Orthodox Jew enough. Because really, it’s only the Orthodox Jews, the real ones, who know what it means to prevent injury to your fellow man.
TAPE # 204 (January 1978)