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Q&A

What happens if the goring ox was provoked?

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Exodus 21:28-29 (and onward) gives us laws concerning the ox that gores. If it happens once, they kill the ox but do not punish the owner. But if the ox has a pattern of goring and the owner has been warned, and it happens again, not only do they kill the ox but the owner is subject to death. (I think, from the Rashi there, that this means death from Heaven.)

What protection does an owner have from a malicious actor? This seems like a way for one who hates his neighbor to at least cause material loss by provoking an animal into attacking someone. Does halacha say that's the owner's problem (he should have taken stronger measures to protect his animals from interference), or is this more like the case of false witnesses, where the malicious witnesses are themselves punished with whatever damage they were trying to inflict?

Further, in the case of provocation, is there ever a case that spares the ox? While in the torah's context an ox is just property (and can be replaced), I believe this law has been applied to non-livestock too, including dogs. In modern times people keep dogs as pets and are specifically attached to them; they're not fungible property.

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Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 395:1 discusses this, quoting the gemara in Bava Kama 24b:

המשסה כלבו של חבירו בחבירו פטור מדיני אדם וחייב בדיני שמים ובעל הכלב חייב חצי נזק שכיון שהוא יודע שאם שסה את כלבו להזיק נושך לא היה לו להניחו ואם שסהו בעצמו בעל הכלב פטור שכל המשנה ובא אחר ושינה בו פטור

One who incites his fellow's dog onto his [other] fellow is exempt from the Law of Men but is liable by the Law of Heaven. The owner of the dog is liable to pay half-damages, since, because he know that if his dog is incited to damage it will bite, he was not allowed to leave it [unattended]. And if [the one who is bitten] incited [the dog] himself, the owner of the dog is exempt, because [of the principle of] one who deviates, if another deviates, [the damager] is exempt.

The principle of Kol Hameshaneh (one who deviates) declares that, because the inciter came along and caused the dog to act differently, the owner is not responsible for damaged caused to the inciter.

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