“The primary principle behind the treatment of animals in Jewish law is preventing tza’ar ba’alei chayim, the suffering of living creatures,” Tracy Rich writes on her website, Judaism 101 (jewfaq.org).
Rich, who has researched this topic extensively, goes on to write, “Judaism expresses no definitive opinion as to whether animals actually experience physical or psychological pain in the same way that humans do; however, Judaism has always recognized the link between the way a person treats animals and the way a person treats human beings. A person who is cruel to a defenseless animal will undoubtedly be cruel to defenseless people.”
To build on this concept, adopting pets from animal shelters is a way to prevent tza’ar ba’alei chayim. Animals at shelters are in need of a second chance. They have been lost, given up or abandoned. They are all unwanted and helpless. By giving them a new life in a loving home, you are preventing cruel practices.
And while we are protecting and loving our pets, they are protecting and loving us. At A Place for Mom (aplaceformom.com), Mary Park Byrne writes about the scientific basis for pet therapy:
“Science can … tell us how and why pets can be therapeutic. Just 15 minutes bonding with an animal sets off a chemical chain reaction in the brain, lowering levels of the fight-or-flight hormone cortisol and increasing production of the feel-good hormone serotonin. The result: heart rate, blood pressure and stress levels immediately drop.
“Over the long term, pet and human interactions can lower cholesterol levels, fight depression and may even help protect against heart disease and stroke. This is why pets for the elderly can be so beneficial.”
So instead of, or in addition to, “hugging a tree,” hug a pet. You will get so much back.
PATRICIA RASKIN hosts “The Patricia Raskin Show” on Saturdays at 3 p.m. on WPRO, 630 AM/99.7 FM, and on Mondays at 2 p.m. on voiceamerica.com. Raskin is a board member of Providence’s Temple Emanu-El.