Ritual for Adopting a Pet

Found In: Honoring Our Animal Companions

By Rabbi Joshua Snyder | Complete Ceremony

This short ceremony takes notice of the fact that all pets are adopted. An overwhelming majority of pets never see their birth mother (and certainly not their father). So we enter into a seemingly strange arrangement, certainly not “natural”, of humans taking a caretaker (and parental role) for their animal companions.  Thus, when pets are adopted, we reaffirm the commitment to stewardship and strengthen the human-animal relationship (which is in need of repair!). This ceremony is based on a NACAC (North American Council on Adoptable Children) candle ceremony in honor of adoption of a child.

The ceremony should take place at home, with a few friends, some of whom will hopefully bring their pets. The adoptive parents are in the room, but the new pet is in another room. The parts can be distributed among the assembled.

Friend or Officiant: We gather today, people and pets, humans and hairy friends, for the adoption of a new friend and furry family member/s for ______ (and _______). As part of our ceremony, we will light candles in honor of all those who helped make this day possible.

First Candle: The first candle is to honor our new family member’s birth family.  It signifies our gratitude to the two dogs/cats/rabbits/ferrets etc. who came together to create this perfect little life. We honor his/her mother’s caring for him/her as a tender pup/kitten/bunny/kit etc.  And we hope that both his parents and brother/sister are in a safe place with plenty of food, warmth and love. [Light candle.]

Second Candle: The second candle is in honor of the people who work at animal shelters and rescues all across the world, taking in animals, caring for them without any desire for repayment from their charges. Despite the enormous numbers of animals that come to them from the street, from bad homes, abandoned and unwanted, they carry on with their work, working to find good homes for our furry and feathered friends.  We pray and hope for permanent loving homes for each and every one of these loving beings.  We acknowledge their efforts that allowed for this family to meet their beshert (destined) pet. [Light candle.]

Third Candle: The third candle honors all adopted pets (look at pets around room). You bring laughter and love into our lives, enriching us and reminding us of the presence of the Divine in all creation. You challenge us to give strict discipline and unfettered love in equal portions.  You have expanded our ability to open our hearts to animal and human alike. Thank you for inspiring us and others to continue the partnership between all God’s creatures. [Light candle.]

Fourth Candle: The fourth candle is in honor of the adoptive parent/s (or caretaker).  We celebrate your commitment to the challenge of taking a new presence into your home, and creating a loving place in this world for this wonderful life. By taking (animal’s name) into your home, you display courage, and an open heart. We will be here to support you through the hard times, and to celebrate the good ones. [Light candle.]

Bring in new pet

Fifth Candle (adoptive parent/s): We light the fifth candle in honor of our newest family member, (pet’s name). May your eyes shine with the light of the world’s Torah. May we learn to communicate and understand each other in our different languages. May we teach each other about love, generosity and forgiveness. May I be able to care for you and fulfill all your needs. Thank you for coming into our life. [Light candle.]

Close with a Misheberach or other pet-owners’ prayers. Allow other pets and new pet to “get acquainted.”