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April 20, 2014 2:22 pm

Jewish Dog Owners Maintain Kosher for Passover Diets for Their Beloved Canines

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

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A dog with matzah in his mouth. Photo: Flickr.

Jewish pet owners in New York made plans for their canines to abide by Passover’s dietary restrictions to ensure that their homes would remain entirely kosher for the holiday, the New York Post reported early last week.

“I e-mailed my rabbi about how to prepare for Passover when you have a dog,” said 32-year-old Shannon Gessner, an account manager who lives in the Upper West Side with her 3-year-old mini-schnauzer Marcy. “I was hoping I would get away with feeding her dog food, but [my rabbi] wants to err on the side of caution, so we’re going to be cooking for her.”

An observant “modern Orthodox” Jew, Gessner has had the stray rescue since July. This Passover is their first together and Gessner is feeding Marcy “human food” throughout the eight day festival, including organic kosher meat and apples instead of the dog’s typical diet of Orijen kibble. The pup is also giving up her favorite treats over the holiday: Wagatha’s biscuits and chewy bully sticks.

“It’s going to be hard, though, because she loves to chew,” Gessner told the Post. “But I’m hand-making her breakfast and dinner, so she’ll survive.”

For the past 20 years, the kosher certification agency Star-K has published an annual list of Passover-friendly pet foods. The brands on the list are not all kosher but are Passover-friendly in the sense that they do not include wheat and rice, according to the Post.

This year’s list was posted in early March, giving owners time to get their pets used to the new foods. However, Star-K’s Rabbi Goldberg  joked, “It’s not soon enough. We get calls about Passover even in January.”

Changing their dog’s diet for Passover is too much hassle for some owners. For example, Rebecca Singer Walker, director of the Israeliness Community at the 92Y, told the Post she just feeds her 8-year-old Yorkie, Miles, what she usually eats.

“Depending on how strict you are, some people might board their pet for a week,” said Rabbi Ayelet S. Cohen, director of the Center for Jewish Living at the Jewish Community Center on the Upper West Side. She also said some pet owners “sell” their dog’s food to a non-Jewish friend for Passover, that way, “the food doesn’t belong to you, it just lives in your house.”

Rikki Davidson, who lives on the Upper West side with her 7-year-old Maltese, Zoe, sold Zoe’s favorite treat, Nutri Dent, to a non-observer but kept it in her house, the Post said, and after the holiday, she will buy it back. The dog’s regular diet is not an issue over the Passover holiday since Zoe eats only grain-free dog food, Davidson, 29, explained.

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