Putting a suffering animal out of its misery - Mitzvah, Reshut or prohibition?


How does the concept of Tza’ar Ba’alei Chaim deal with putting an animal out of its misery by killing it in order to prevent unnecessary pain (of the animal)?

For instance, when one sees an animal with a broken spine lying on the side of the road and he cannot take it to the vet without hurting it, and one cannot, for whatever reason, bring a vet to the animal, or else assume that one is a vet and can determine that there is no way to nurse the animal back to health.

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This answer is from Dinonline:

Killing Animals to Prevent their Suffering

The Chazon Ish is cited (in Dinim Ve-Hanhagos Mi-Maran Ha-Chazon Ish Vol. 2, p. 40) as having been asked by a member of the family how a dying fly should be treated. The Chazon Ish responded that the fly should be killed, so as to prevent its extended suffering.

However, it is possible (Tzaar Baalei Chayim Chap. 4, no. 3) that this ruling will only apply to small insects, and not to larger animals, such as mice, and so on. The reason for this is that with regard to larger animals, killing the animal -- even if done to prevent its suffering -- is perceived as an act of cruelty, and therefore it should be avoided even for noble motives.

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I would like to discuss some aspects of צבע"ח. This topic is very loaded emotionally, and it is crucial to neutralize one's emotions while discussing it Halachicly.

  1. There's no Halachic reference to animals other than being a property. As such, one is free to make any use of it including making it suffer or killing it (don't rush!) as long as one benefits from it. If one does not benefit from injuring or killing HIS animals he's probably transgressing בל תשחית, but nothing from יורה דעה. (See JT Shabbat 7,2 explanation of עורות אילים מרודמים that the animals were beaten to make their skin red, or Soyto 9-10 about letting the blood of an animal before sacrifice). This approach is called scientifically "Anthropocentric Ecology" or Anthropocentrism.
    This is פשיטא from the explicit verses of the Torah:

"ויברך אותם אלוקים ויאמר להם אלוקים פרו ורבו ומלאו את הארץ וכיבשוה ורדו בדגת הים ובעוף השמים ובכל חיה הרומשת על הארץ"

"ומוראכם וחתכם יהיה על כל חית הארץ, ועל כל עוף השמים, בכל אשר תרמוש האדמה ובכל דגי הים, בידכם נתנו. כל רמש אשר הוא חי לכם יהיה לאוכלה כירק עשב נתתי לכם את הכל"

  1. The same logic applies to Hafker animals, that one is free to catch or make use of or kill for any need incl. fun (Nodah BeYehuda openly permitted hunting for fun only, but many opposed). Therefore, killing an animal is defaultively allowed and by itself does not fall under צעב"ח at all.

  2. The whole concept of צעב"ח is questionable as all the Mitzvot we learn it from have some weird limitations, e.g שילוח הקן is limited to עוף טהור, אותו ואת בנו is limited to defectless animals, פריקה וטעינה is limited to חברך etc.

  3. Therefore צעב"ח was never unified in any form of Halacha, and it is only mentioned "by the way" when other Mitzvot are discussed (Se Rambam Avida, Rotzeah also in Shu"A)

  4. Most Poskim agree that the concept is used not as a practical Mitzvah, but as a tool to exercise one's Midos in order to mimic Hashem's qualities ( חסדים ורחמים). Therefore, the Mitzvah will not be the חפצא - to help the animal, but גברא - to use the situation to exhibit and exercise good Midos. The story about Rebbi (BM 85a shows exactly that - he did not show his sympathy), or the opposite - to prevent developing bad Middos such as cruelty (See Rem"O אה"ע סי' ה' סעי' י"ד).

  5. As the matter of Midos, two people might be acting completely differently and still "performing the Mitzvah of צעב"ח" - One might express his compassion by killing it immediately, another might only pet it, and still another by spending a fortune to find a cure.

I'm sorry to stop, I can go on and on but hope this will suffice.

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It is a sin not to put an animal out of its suffering of pain and keep it alive, when it has a constructive purpose in its death e.g shechita for the sake of food.

Bava Bathra 73b:
ואמר רבה בר בר חנה זימנא חדא הוה קא אזלינן במדברא וחזינן הנהו אווזי דשמטי גדפייהו משמנייהו וקא נגדי נחלי דמשחא מתותייהו אמינא להו אית לן בגוייכו חלקא לעלמא דאתי חדא דלי גדפא וחדא דלי אטמא כי אתאי לקמיה דרבי אלעזר אמר לי עתידין ישראל ליתן עליהן את הדין
In summary Rabba bar bar Chana went to the desert on his travels and saw the fat geese that were so fat when they lifted their wings oil flowed out. These were destined to be slaughtered for Tzadikim to eat, and Rabbi Elazar said that we will be brought to account on the geeses behalf, for delaying the end of days when they will be eaten.

ליתן עליהם את הדין - שבחטאתם מתעכב משיח ויש להם צער בעלי חיים לאותן אווזים מחמת שומנן:
i.e the delay of Moshiach keeps them alive and causes these geese pain to move because they are so full of fat.

Shitta mekubetzet:עתידין ישראל ליתן עליהם את הדין. פירוש כשאוכלים אותם לעתיד לבוא מנכים להם מזכיותיהן
i.e we will lose our merits for the anguish we caused those geese to stay alive when Moshiach comes and we finally slaughter and eat the geese at the feast.

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