The Dog Test
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