Animals - Euthanasia

June 6, 2014 | by Rabbi Pinchas Waldman

My cat is very sick with cancer, and our veterinarian asked me for permission to put him to sleep. Is it proper to do so to spare the animal pain? Isn’t it really up to God to decide when it is time for a creature to die?

The Aish Rabbi Replies

I'm sorry to hear of your pet's illness. You and yours should be comforted for the loss.

We are permitted to put an animal to sleep to avoid its suffering. The reason is because the Torah requires us to alleviate the pain of animals (based on the verse obligating us to help our fellow unload his overladen donkey (Exodus 23:5)). On the other hand, we are allowed to kill animals when we have a good reason – such as for their meat or if they are threatening us. Putting the two points together, we are allowed to euthanize an animal for the good justification of minimizing its pain. (See Rema E.H 5:14, Noda BiYehuda 2 Y.D. 10, Techumim X p. 258.)




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