For the week ending 23 July 2005 / 16 Tammuz 5765

Confused Canary

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
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From: Devorah Hagar

Dear Rabbi,

My last name is Hagar. I am buying a bird and have named him Ishmael. Ishmael ben Hagar. Though I am Jewish, Sephardic, (my real father is an Arab-American), I figured the bird could be Muslim. Can a Jew own and care for a Muslim bird? I'm not joking. I bought him the Mosque style birdcage sold at Petco and decorated it in Mediterranean style. I know that bird food would have to be different because I cannot have chametz in MY possession during Pesach. But can a Jew owe and care for a pet non-Jewish style? Non-kosher? I know that he has to be fed before I feed myself. During Ramadan, I was planning on feeding him only after sun-down. After reading the article Kosher Keeping Pets, I still don't understand why it first says that a pet does not have to keep kosher, then it says that we can't feed pets a mixture of meat and milk. Please explain.

From: Avi

Dear Rabbi,

I read the article Kosher Keeping Pets. I was wondering if the dog food was glatt kosher, can a Jewish person partake in the eating of this highly nourishing delight, or does it just mean that there is no milk and meat in the process. Thank you.

Dear Devorah and Avi,

Identity crisis issues aside, the point of the article was that pets of Jews are not Jewish pets. This means that while a Jew may not eat non-kosher food, he may feed most non-kosher foods to his pets.

The few exceptions are those foods that are not only non-kosher, but are also prohibited for a Jew to derive any benefit from. Since the Jewish pet owner benefits by, and enjoys keeping his pet alive through feeding it, the pet food must be something that the owner, as a Jew, is allowed to derive benefit from.

Two such exceptions of foods which are not only not kosher, but are also forbidden to derive benefit from, are mixtures of meat and milk during the entire year, and chametz during Passover. A Jew is prohibited from feeding these foods to his pets at those times not because they cant eat them, but because he cant give it to them.

Therefore, glatt kosher pet food would only ensure that the owner can feed it to his pet, but not that its kosher for a Jew to eat. Unfortunately youll have to stick with chopped liver and cholent. "Kosher" pet food only means with no meat and milk, or chometz on Passover.

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