By: Rabbi Ari Enkin
Does one recite the blessing of “baruch dayan ha’emet” upon the death of the beloved family dog?
The Biur Halacha writes:
When one is informed that one’s wine has spoiled one recites the blessing “dayan ha’emet”. This is also true if all of one’s possessions were burned or if one’s animal died and all other similar situations in which one is distressed.
Based on a simple reading of the above it appears that one who was exceptionally attached to one’s dog is permitted to recite the blessing “dayan ha’emet” upon it’s passing.
However, Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein argues that this ruling of the Biur Halacha should not apply to “a man’s best friend”. He notes that the other cases listed by the Biur Halacha are all ones of financial loss. Back in the day, one’s animals were often one’s only source of income. The death of one’s animal, especially a cow or goat, was often the first step towards poverty.
The only reason one would be inclined to recite “dayan ha’emet” upon the death of one’s dog would be out of a feeling of love and sadness not out of monetary loss. As such, it would appear that reciting “dayan ha’emet” upon the death of a dog is inconsistent with the parameters set by the Biur Halacha for its recitation and would therefore be unjustified. It is only upon the death of a human loved one is the blessing “dayan ha’emet” recited out of a feeling of love and sadness.
Nevertheless, Rabbi Zilberstein rules that one is permitted to recite “dayan ha’emet” upon the death of a valuable guard dog whose passing might make one’s valuables vulnerable to robbers until the dog is replaced. Similarly, a blind person may recite “dayan ha’emet” upon the passing of his guide dog because it is considered to be a situation of financial loss as such dogs are very expensive to replace and to train.
 Biur Halacha 222 s.v. “dayan”
 V’ha’arev Na Vol. II p.169