Halacha Date: 23 Iyar 5781 May 5 2021
Question: If one has a pet dog at home, either for leisure or as a seeing-eye dog for a blind individual, may one move it on Shabbat? Similarly, may one walk the dog in the street on Shabbat?
Answer: We have explained in the previous Halacha that all animals are considered Muktzeh on Shabbat as Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch rules (Chapter 308) and it is absolutely forbidden to move them or pick them up with one’s hands on Shabbat (Responsa Yabia Omer, Volume 5, Chapter 26). It is certainly forbidden to pick up a dog or cat on Shabbat.
Nevertheless, if one is not actually lifting the dog with one’s hands and is merely taking it for a walk while it has a collar around its neck and is bound by a leash, according to the letter of the law, there is room for leniency, especially when there is a need to do so, such as regarding a blind individual who requires the assistance of a seeing-eye dog; such an individual may walk with his dog on Shabbat while holding onto the leash which the dog is attached to. Hagaon Harav Moshe Stern zt”l (in his Responsa Be’er Moshe, Volume 2) and the great Rishon Le’Zion, Hagaon Harav Yitzchak Yosef Shlit”a (in his Sefer Yalkut Yosef) rule likewise. Indeed, Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 305, Section 5) rules explicitly, as follows: “Leashed animals, such as hunting dogs or small animals which have a kind of collar around their necks with a ring attached to the collar through which a strap is inserted and the animal is pulled using the strap, may go out on Shabbat with the leash around their necks and one may pull them using the leash.”
If there is no Eruv in the area and it is thus forbidden to carry anything in a public domain, some more details apply. Although it is permissible to walk a leashed dog since the leash is meant to protect it and is considered like a garment, not a burden which may not be carried on Shabbat (and one may therefore pull the dog in any direction one wishes), nevertheless, when there is no Erev, one must hold onto specifically the end of the leash so that one Tefach (approximately 8 cm or 3 in.) of the leash does not protrude from one’s hand. One must also be sure to use only a short leash, for if one uses a long one, sometimes the dog will come close to its owner and the leash will sag to within one Tefach off the ground, which is likewise forbidden. (We cannot delve into the rationale behind these laws at this juncture.) One should therefore use a short leash and hold it at the edge. (See Chazon Ovadia- Shabbat, Volume 3, page 124 and Shemirat Shabbat Ke’Hilchata, Chapter 27, Section 8)
Summary: If one raises a dog at home, although it is forbidden to move the dog with one’s hands on Shabbat, when necessary, one may take the dog out for a walk on Shabbat while a leash is attached to it. There is especially room for leniency regarding a blind individual who requires the assistance of a seeing-eye dog. If the neighborhood does not have an Erev, see above for more pertinent details.