(JTA) — More than a dozen rabbis from the city of Elad issued an edict declaring all dogs bad and warning residents that keeping them will make them accursed.

The edict, dated June 14, contains the signatures of all the Sephardic rabbis in Elad, a city of about 46,000 residents where most of the population is haredi Orthodox. The city’s chief rabbi, Mordechai Malka, also signed the edict, the news site bhol reported Friday.

“We have heard and have seen that lately, a serious phenomenon has spread in our city Elad, in which young boys and children walk around publicly with dogs. This is strictly forbidden. As explained in the Talmud and by the Rambam, anyone raising a dog is accursed and especially in our city where many women and children are afraid of dogs,” the anti-canine edict states.

The rabbi of neighboring Holon, Avraham Yosef, is quoted as writing: “I do not find any grounds for permitting any dog whatsoever in any manner.”

The term “bad dog” means “any dog, for it barks on whomever it does not know and because of its bark it is a bad dog even if does not bite,” the edict also states. People who keep dogs for medical needs should appear before the local rabbinical court so it may rule on their matter, the edict says.

The Talmud and the 12th-century sage Maimonides, or the Rambam, frequently regard dogs as dangerous and unclean. The edict’s interpretation is strict, however, compared to readings by other Israeli Orthodox authorities.

Uziel Elyahu, the chief Orthodox rabbi of the northern municipality of Misgav, in 2002 ruled that keeping guard dogs is allowed, as well as guide dogs and ones kept “to develop a person’s emotions.”

Elad was established in 1998. More than half of its population is below 18.

1 COMMENT

  1. From Menachem in Brooklyn:

    Keeping Dogs at Home

    The Gemara (Bava Kama 15b) cites from Rabbi Noson that one who raises an “evil dog” in his home transgresses the Torah prohibition of “Do not place blood in your home” (Devarim 22:8). This clearly implies that when the dog is not “evil,” meaning, a dog that is not predisposed to cause damage, it is permitted to raise a dog in one’s home. Later in Bava Kama (80a) we find specific permission (in the name of Rabbi Yishmael) to raise a dogs for the purpose of eliminating rodents (Rashi explains that the reference is to small dogs or hunting dogs that do no harm).

    At the same time, we find (Bava Kama 79b) that it is forbidden to own a dog unless the dog is securely chained up, so that it cannot cause physical damage, nor frighten anyone with its bark—which the Gemara notes can cause a woman to miscarry her child. This seems to apply to any dogs, and not only to dangerous ones.

    The Gemara expands on this statement (83a), also mentioning (in the name of Rabbi Eliezer) that one who raises a dog is considered as one who raises a pig, for which a special curse applies—though the Rama explains that this refers only to an untied dog, and not to a dog that is kept tied.

    Based on these sources, the Rambam (Nizkei Mammon 5:9) thus rules that it is forbidden to raise any dog unless it is secured by chains. He explains the reason for this, “since dogs often cause significant damage.”

    However, most early authorities understand that the restriction noted in the Gemara, whereby one can own a dog only if it is chained securely, is limited to “evil dogs”—dogs prone to damaging others. For domesticated and “well-behaved” dogs there is no such restriction, and it is permitted to keep such a dog without concern (see Tur, Choshen Mishpat 409; Hagahos Maimoni, Rotze’ach 11:3; Semag, Aseh 66). This lenient opinion is noted by the Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 409:3), and this is also the general ruling given by later authorities.

    What is an “Evil Dog”?

    In defining an “evil dog,” the Yam Shel Shlomo (Bava Kama 7:45) writes that only dogs that neither bite nor bark are exempted from the category—as noted above, a dog that barks is considered dangerous since a threatening bark can cause a woman to miscarry. Therefore, he requires one to chain his dog even if it only barks.

    The Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Shmiras Guf Ve’nefesh, 3) reaches a similar conclusion, noting that many Jews own dogs that bark but do not bite, but stating that the justification for this is weak, since the consensus of authorities is that even a dog that merely barks must not be kept unchained. He concludes that “all G-d-fearing Jews should ensure that dogs that bark are secured with iron chains while people are awake, even if these dogs merely bark and do not bite” (see also Kenesses Hagedola, Choshen Mishpat 409:4).

    It is noteworthy that Rabbi Yaakov Emden (Sheilas Yaavetz 17) states that in any case it is only permitted to keep dogs for purposes of protection or for some economic reason, but other than this one should refrain from the practice, which reflects the negative ways of non-Jews.

    This special stringency, however, is not noted by other authorities—though the Sefer Chassidim (1038) writes that owning birds is “nonsense,” and that money should be put to better use.

    Feeding Pets

    The Pasuk states (Devarim 11:15): “I will give grass in your fields for your animal, and you shall eat and be satisfied.” The Gemara (Berachos 40a; Gittin 62a) derives from here that one may not eat before feeding his animals, as the order given by the Torah, providing first for the animal’s needs, and only then for the human’s.

    This ruling is not noted by the Shulchan Aruch, apparently following the Rambam, who notes the idea of feeding animals first as a middas chassidus, and not as a full obligation (Hilchot Avadim 9:8).

    Yet, the Magen Avraham (Orach Chaim 167:18) cites the statement of the Gemara as normative halacha, noting elsewhere (271:12) in the name of Rav Yaakov Emden that this is actually a biblical prohibition.

    The Chayei Adam (45:1), Mishnah Berurah (167:40) and Aruch Hashulchan (167:13) all note this law as a prohibition (though the Biur Halacha shows, based on the Rema, that it is not a biblical obligation). One must therefore be careful to refrain from dining (the Mishnah Berurah refers to eating and drinking) before feeding one’s animals.

    Rabbi Yaakov Emden (Shut Ya’avetz 1, 17) writes that the halacha of feeding one’s animals will not apply to cats and dogs, who are not dependent on their owners for survival, and can fend for themselves by eating food from the garbage and the like (cited by Shaarei Teshuva 167:9; Chayei Adam 45:1). Yet, for domesticated animals confined to a house setting (such as many dogs), this leniency will not apply.

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