Halacha for Tuesday 22 Iyar 5781 May 4 2021

Moving Animals on Shabbat

Question: May one move domesticated birds that live in a cage on Shabbat in order to move the cage from place to place as necessary? Similarly, may one remove a dead fish from one’s aquarium on Shabbat?

Answer: The Gemara (Shabbat 128b) states that it is forbidden to move or carry any animals or birds on Shabbat and they retain the law of other forms of Muktzeh on Shabbat which may not be moved.

Rabbeinu Nissim writes that the reason why animals are considered Muktzeh and forbidden to be moved on Shabbat is because animals are not able to be used for any purpose on Shabbat and thus, they retain the same law as wood and stones which are considered innately Muktzeh because they have no purpose on Shabbat. The Bet Yosef (Chapter 308) writes accordingly.

The same law applies to caged birds and since the birds themselves do not serve any purpose on Shabbat, they may not be moved, even when they are still in the cage. There is no distinction between moving animals or moving birds, as Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 308, Section 39) rules, “It is forbidden to move any animals or birds on Shabbat.”

Nevertheless, Rabbeinu Chaim Ohr Zarua (one of the great Rishonim) rules that one may be lenient and move birds on Shabbat since people enjoy their voices on Shabbat and this enjoyment entails no prohibition. There is likewise no issue to move them, for they are not used for any type of forbidden work as people merely enjoy their appearance, voice, and chirping. Thus, according to Rabbeinu Chaim Ohr Zarua, caged birds may be moved on Shabbat. Nevertheless, halachically speaking, we follow the opinion of the Rosh and Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch who rule that no animals or birds may be moved on Shabbat.  

Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes (Volume 5 of Responsa Yabia Omer, Chapter 26) that although we rule in accordance with the Rosh that birds may not be moved on Shabbat, nevertheless, in a situation where the animal is suffering, such as if the cage is in a place where the sun is beating down on it or if it is in a very cold place and this poses danger and great suffering to the birds, one may rely on the opinion of Rabbeinu Chaim Ohr Zarua and move the cage to a shaded place. Maran proceeds to support his opinion with various proofs.

The same applies to tropical fish and when the fish are in a small aquarium and one fish dies, this poses a danger to the rest of the fish since the dead fish decomposes in the water, one may remove the dead fish on Shabbat although it is Muktzeh. This is because of the issue of animal suffering, as we have explained.

Summary: It is forbidden to move animals on Shabbat. It is therefore forbidden to move a bird cage on Shabbat. Nevertheless, in a situation where the birds are suffering, such as if the sun is beating down on the birds’ heads and this can cause them to die sometimes as well, it will be permissible to move the bird cage to a shaded place.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Eating Meat Following Rosh Chodesh Av

The Mishnah in Masechet Ta’anit (26b) tells us that on Erev Tisha Be’av during the last meal one eats before the fast, one may not eat meat, drink wine, or eat two cooked foods, such as rice and an egg. Although the letter of the law dictates that the prohibition to eat meat only applies......

Read Halacha

Laws Pertaining to Tisha Be’av

There are five categories of abstinence which must be observed on Tisha Be’av: Eating and drinking, washing one’s self, rubbing one’s body with oils or lotions, wearing leather shoes, and marital relations. Our Sages also prohibited learning Torah on Tisha Be’av, for the word......

Read Halacha

Havdala on Motza’ei Shabbat Which Coincides with Tisha Be’av and the Laws of an Ill Individual Who Must Eat on Tisha Be’av

On years during which Tisha Be’av falls out on Motza’ei Shabbat, such as this year, 5782, there are three opinions among the Rishonim regarding how Havdala should be recited on a cup of wine on Motza’ei Shabbat. The first opinion is that of the Geonim who write that one should r......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Taking Haircuts During the “Three Weeks"- The Year 5782

The Customary Prohibition of Haircuts As a result of the mourning observed during the “Three Weeks,” the Ashkenazi custom is to abstain from shaving and taking haircuts beginning from the Seventeenth of Tammuz until the Tenth of Av. Nevertheless, the Sephardic custom is not as string......

Read Halacha


Those Who are Obligated and Exempt from the Fast of Tisha Be’av and their Status When Tisha Be’av Falls Out on Motza’ei Shabbat

Someone Ill with a Non-Life-Threatening Illness, An Elderly Person, and a Woman who has Recently Given Birth One who is ill (meaning when one is actually bedridden and the like, even if the illness is not life-threatening) is exempt from fasting on Tisha Be’av. When in doubt about one’s......

Read Halacha

When Av Begins, We Diminish Our Joy

This coming Friday will mark Rosh Chodesh Av. Next Shabbat will mark Tisha Be’av, however, since fast days are prohibited on Shabbat (besides for Yom Kippur), Tisha Be’av will be observed next Motza’ei Shabbat and Sunday. May Hashem soon switch this month to one of joy and celebrat......

Read Halacha

The Laws of the Last Meal Before the Fast of Tisha Be’av on Shabbat

On Erev Tisha Be’av, our Sages prohibited eating meat and drinking wine during the last meal before the onset of the fast of Tisha Be’av held after halachic midday. They likewise forbade eating two cooked foods during this meal.  Nevertheless, this year, 5782, since the fast of T......

Read Halacha

Tisha Be’av Which Coincides With Motza’ei Shabbat- Clothing for Tisha Be’av

The Baraita in Masechet Ta’anit (30a) states that our Sages prohibited five things on Tisha Be’av: Eating and drinking, washing one’s self, rubbing one’s self with oils or lotions, wearing leather shoes, and marital relations. Our Sages said (Ta’anit 30b): “One......

Read Halacha