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The Dog Test

April 24, 2012 – 8:34 pm6 Comments

By Vadim Chelom
With another Pesach now behind us I am sure that this year, as in the past many of you have spent nervous moments agonising over the permissibility of usage on Pesach of many non-edible items such as shampoo, perfume, deodorant, candles, tissues, paper plates and many others. I have no doubt that some of you have ask questions of pre-eminent rabbis and kashrus experts on the permissibility and precautions needed to use such items. You need not have bothered. In fact to find the answers to this contentious subject you should bypass the rabbis and send your questions directly to me. Yes, that’s right – your friendly Veterinarian. What would I know about the complex issues of halacha and kosher supervision, you may ask? Well actually the sages of the Talmud already answered that question.

We all know that chometz is forbidden on Pesach even when mixed into food in minute quantities (Shulchan Aruch O.C. 447:4, Mishnah Berurah 35, Chazon Ish 119:12). Since these days the ingredient lists are long and manufacturing methods complex one is faced with an almost insurmountable problem of investigating every manufactured item in the house. This stringency only applies, however if the product in question is a food item. Something that is not a food can be used and owned with confidence, as the very issue of chametz does not apply. How are we to define what is a food item? The Talmud (Pesachim 15b) says that an item is not food if a dog refuses to eat it (“Eino Ra’ui L’achilas Kelev”). Tosafot (to Pesachim 15b) even exempts bread from the definition of chametz if it has become stale to a point where a dog would reject the item.

So a question of whether a non-food product can be considered chametz for Pesach should be decided not by a halacha expert or a kashrus expert but by a dog expert. And as someone with a decade-plus experience in owning and looking after dogs I can say with certainty that no dog, no matter how hungry, would choose to consume shampoo, deodorant, shoe polish, plastic plates or perfume. When faced with an unfamiliar food dish you and I have no means, other than visual examination to ascertain the edible state of the food. We may well opt to swallow a small piece to find out what the dish tastes like. Not so the dog.

The dog has a well-developed olfactory mechanism to inform it of the taste and flavour of food without touching it and over considerable distance. As such, no dog in his right mind would consume a product that is toxic to it and has a strong noxious smell. Below in a short Video in which you can see me perform a simple scientific and repeatable test that will convince even the most cautious sceptics that the product in question will not be consumed by a dog and can therefore be used safely on Pesach.

So to all those confused about the permissibility of common household products on Pesach I bring great news: Don’t waste your time buying expensive Kosher-certified cleaners and toiletries. Send your questions to me and I will gladly apply the ‘dog test’ to the products of your choice. Moreover – unlike other kosher agencies my testing services are free. Did I hear you ask – “What will I do will all that leftover money after Pesach?” Write to me and I will gladly send you a list of charities in Australia and overseas. Goodness knows – they could do with some help.

Dr Vadim Chelom is a Veterinarian, a writer and an educator. You can read his blog at: www.safetypets.wordpress.com

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  • Mandi Katz says:

    yep doggy knows

  • Marky says:

    Reminds me of a story where an ignorant villager used to travel to the big city to ask the Rabbi all his questions, which generally dealt with the Kashrus of his shechted chickens.

    After not coming to Rabbi for a while, he came again and the former asked him why he had not come, did he not have any shailos any more. To which the villager replied that he had learnt in the Torah re not Kosher meat “lakelev tashlichin oso”(throw it to the dog”),
    so he decided that instead of travelling each time to the Rabbi in the big city, he would now test to see if the meat is Kosher by throwing it to the dog. If the dog eats it, it is proof that it is not Kosher, but if he leaves it, then it is Kosher..

    So the rabbi asked him “why did you come to me now with your chicken?”

    To which the dorfsman replied “because the dog was too much of a machmir(too stringent)…

  • Yitzchak says:

    Rabbi Gutnick told a good story in this regard at the COSV Q&A sesssion before Pesach.

    He said that Rabbi Soloweitzik (is that how it’s spelt?) who is often referred to simply as the Rav, once gave a ruling during a shiur permitting the use of toothpaste even if it doesn’t have a ksoher certification. He said that this was based on the fact that toothpaste is not a food as a dog would not eat toothpaste. A student came in the next day and said that, with the greatest respect to the Rav, he had taken a tube of toothpaste to the park yesterday and squeezed it out in front of a dog and the dog had eaten it.

    Rav Soloweitzik smiled at the stiudnet and said “Who you gonna believe – me or the dog?”. :-)

  • Joe in Australia says:

    The eino ro’i l’achilat kelev rule isn’t a universal one, and it certainly doesn’t extend to things that humans will consume. It’s well known that humans will drink alcohol-based perfume if no other liquor is available, so chometz in perfume would seem to be a live issue.

  • Alcohol, if derived from wheat, is Chamets.

    Reb Moshe suggests that although when Chamets alcohol is combined with non-foods and the combination is a non-food, this should mean that this product is not Chamets; nevertheless if the alcohol can be readily separated in an uncomplicated fashion and this is routinely done, then we ought to consider the alcohol as being independent and identifiable, and Chamets.

    His example of this are the cheap household cleaners that the winos would either pour through bread or add cordial to and then consider ready for consumption.

    In this respect, the dog wont eat it [do dogs drink beer?] because it is in a stinky container and the dog does not know how to get the good food out of the container. But if people can easily get it as a food, then it must still be considered a food and Chamets.

    BTW, lovely article Dr Chelom, the balance is right and the message is clear.

  • TheSadducee says:

    This isn’t particularly novel – Jehu tested it out with Jezebel if you recall…

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