Should Pets Be Eligible For Food Stamps?

Should Pets Be Eligible For Food Stamps?

Erin Klabunde

The 170,000 people who signed this petition think so.

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A petition to expand the food stamp program to include pet food already has 169,00 signatures — but its chances of succeeding at the federal level are slim.

Forty million Americans rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP (better known as “food stamps”) to feed their families. And Edward B. Johnston Jr., a 58-year-old from Mississippi, thinks that assistance should extend to a family’s furry (or feathery or scaly) members.

Johnston started the petition on the petition site Care2 when he fell on hard times. “I have only been on SNAP benefits for a few months, but I have been unable to feed my little dog due to government regulations,” he wrote.

He said he finds it painful to watch his pup go hungry.

Johnston reached his original goal of 95,000 signatures in almost no time at all. The petition’s now a hair shy of hitting its revised goal of 170,000 signatures.

Johnston’s petition has been widely circulated. When Dose posted news of his efforts to our Facebook page, the responses made it clear that many are divided on the issue of applying SNAP benefits to pet food.

Nicole Celeste Bertolami echoed a popular opinion — that pets are a luxury, not a necessity:

Johnston himself anticipated some of these criticisms, writing, “…the fact is that an individual or family’s financial status can change at any time. Should someone be forced to give up a pet they’ve had for years just because they hit a financial rough patch?”

Others who support Johnston’s petition pointed out that many people who rely on food stamps also rely on animals for physical or emotional support:

One novel solution to helping low-income families provide for their pets? Donate pet food to food pantries.

The Chow Wagon Pet Food Bank has been operating in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania since 2007. Its goal is to help families keep their four-legged family members—dogs, cats, even rabbits—during challenging economic times, by providing them with pet food.

Chow Wagon’s initiative has real impact. It currently serves 29 food pantries and two Meals on Wheels programs in three counties.

Those numbers are impressive, but the emotional support is even more potent. According to Chow Wagon’s site, “The first time one of our clients saw canned cat food on the shelf at his local food pantry he was overjoyed. The man had been taking six to eight cans of tuna each time he visited the pantry so that he could feed his cat at home.”