What Are Pet Food Stamps?

Two happy dogs

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has tens of millions of members signed up: low-income individuals and families that receive food stamps to make food more affordable. The scheme aims to ensure that fewer people go hungry and ensures that all household members can enjoy decent-quality meals. However, despite widespread calls to include the purchase of pet food as part of the SNAP food stamp scheme, members are not allowed to use their stamps in this way.

Pets are Part of the Family, Too

Unfortunately, pets from low-income households suffer just as much as the human members of the family. Good nutrition is equally as important to the welfare of a dog as it is to a human, but pet-loving owners who have been hit by unemployment, or are struggling through a tough economic climate, are forced to let their pets go hungry. 

Financial difficulties lead to caring pet owners having to hand their cats, dogs, and other household pets over to shelters, many of which face overcrowding and some of which euthanize their animals to keep numbers down to a manageable level. 

Sending pets to shelters is not only heartbreaking for the family, but it also leads to additional costs for local governments and non-profit organizations.

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Pet food

The Pet Food Stamp Program

One not-for-profit organization, Pet Food Stamps, aims to redress this balance by providing free pet food deliveries for six months. The group first verifies the household income and determines their pet food needs. Eligible members receive free deliveries of food for six months. This means that owners can continue to care for their pets in the way they would like and use their SNAP food stamps to feed themselves. 

The application process is completed online, and food is delivered by online pet food delivery service Pet Food Direct. The group also said that postal applications would be available, but only once they have moved to a new office. If the household is still in a similar position when the six months ends, they can reapply for more food deliveries.

Dog with bone

No Federal Funding

The program’s founder, Marc Okon, said that the program is donation-based and does not rely on any government funding. He also said that Pet Food Stamps is “not looking for government funding at this point” but “should the government be willing to provide assistance further down the line, we will look into it.” The scheme attracted 45,000 pet enrollments within the first two weeks of the scheme’s introduction.

The pet food stamp scheme fills a glaring gap in Federal programs. In fact, there are genuine concerns that the monthly food stamp scheme itself could shut down. Although similar schemes have been available since 1939, the scheme was renamed as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in 2008, when recession saw many more families struggling to meet household bills. In its current guise, the government means-tests applicants according to the number of people in their household.

Note: The Pet Food Stamps non-profit scheme launched in 2013 and, according to their website, were forced to close their doors in 2014 because the program of supplying pet food to in-need families was unsustainable.


Featured image credit: Bicanski, Pixnio