Spot may look and act Jewish, but does he eat Jewish

If Colo of Napa were human, he’d speak Yiddish. When he stretches his aging dog body, he groans an extended “oy.” His days revolve around mealtime. When he’s not eating, he likes to shluff. No doubt about it — the dog is Jewish. He’s not observant, though. Colo doesn’t keep kosher and will eat anything, unspeakable items included.

But Auggie of Oakland and Molly of Berkeley are two dogs being raised in kosher homes. Do their diets conform to Jewish law?

“Auggie eats plain old dog food, and I even mix it with cheese for him on occasion,” his owner admitted. “Frankly, in my mind, pet food goes into some other category.”

One of Molly’s toys is a plush little pig with the word “traif” written across it. Her owners use a separate can opener, sponge and spoon for her regular food, and when they wash her bowl, they remove the dairy or meat mats from their sink. Her owner said, “We should probably have one [a mat] just for her, but how far can you take these things?”

The answer: real far. At a time when the “bark mitzvah” — featuring pooch prayer shawls (I’m not kidding) — is on the rise, kosher dog food should be no surprise.

Holly Sher of the Chicago area is co-owner of Evanger’s Dog & Cat Food Co., Inc., one of two companies that launched the growing kosher dog business a couple of years ago. While on a dog walk with an observant friend, Sher learned that kosher-keeping pet owners were often forced to feed dogs in garages and give them away during Passover.

“I saw a need, and no one else was going to fill that need,” Sher said. “It opened up a whole new market I didn’t even know existed.”

Sher said some kosher pet owners, who may have not worried before, now feed their dogs nothing else. She’s gotten frantic calls from people requesting overnight delivery, adding $75 to their bills. Once a storeowner demanded a Saturday night drop-off since his stock had been depleted right before the Passover rush. Her company has gone international, making regular shipments to Israel.

And the opportunities are endless. Once a caller asked her for kosher goldfish food. But Sher’s in the dog and cat business, so that niche is up for grabs.

Evanger’s Super Premium Gold products are all meat and grain-free, making them suitable for year-round kosher use. KosherPets, the Florida-based competitor, offers similar products, but the company Web site also encourages dog introspection during Rosh Hashanah — “a healthy kosher diet is a resolution that all pets should make.” It also plays up that dogs are lactose intolerant, making me think one of our lost tribes has tails.

The Chicago Rabbinical Council, the largest Orthodox regional rabbinical organization in North America, endorses kosher pet food. A CRC employee withheld her name but praised these companies for their service. “Any observant Jew is not allowed to serve anyone, or a pet, any product that contains meat and dairy,” she said.

She reminded me, twice, that dog food is “not for human consumption.” It turns out the meat in the products is not kosher; it’s simply certified free of dairy and, for Passover, grain. She says owners are advised to use separate utensils and bowls, and to wash the dishes in bathroom sinks or laundry tubs — never the kitchen.

Asked what observant dog owners did before kosher pet food came along, she said, “People would take ground meat or their chicken and make their own … particularly around the Passover holiday.”

So these kosher canines were treated to home-cooked meals before they were introduced to canned delicacies such as lamb and rice, duck and sweet potato, and even pheasant? When dogs are eating better than I am, I get scared.

At Holistic Hound in Berkeley and Pet People in Los Gatos, you can find squeaky matzah balls, lox and bagels, even menorahs. Visit, and you’ll meet Charlie, a member of the dog tribe who dons a large Star of David and helps promote Israel Defense Forces dog tags and customized collars bearing Hebrew dog names.

Stay tuned for mohelim who neuter.

Jessica Ravitz recently completed her master’s in journalism at U.C. Berkeley. She can be reached at [email protected].