Food Stamps, Now for Pets

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A new program called “Pet Food Stamps” aims to provide free monthly home delivery of pet food and other necessary pet supplies to owners receiving food stamps or who are below the poverty line.

The program’s founder and executive director Marc Okon says that more than 45,000 pets were signed into the donation-based program in just the past two weeks.

“We’re not looking for government funding at this point,” Okon told ABCNews.com. “Should the government be willing to provide assistance further down the line, we will look into it.”

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He explained that once a pet owner’s need and income are verified, the families will receive pet food each month from pet food retailer Pet Food Direct for a 6-month period.

The name Pet Food Stamps is particularly catchy, but other organizations provide similar services, and have been doing so for quite some time. One example is the Washington Animal Rescue League.

“One of our missions is to provide income-qualified families with discounted pet care, vaccinations, vaccine clinics, neutered clinics and vet care,” League spokesman Matt Williams told ABC. “We have a new medical center on site … We also have a food bank run entirely on donations.”

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Pet Food Stamps isn’t focusing on a city or state. Its goal is to help any approved person who is a U.S. citizen. Response to the program has crashed its web site. The group’s Facebook page acknowledges the problem and says the group it trying to fix it.

As a statement on both the FB page and the website mentions,

“The Pet Food Stamps program has been created to fill the void in the United States Food Stamp program which excludes the purchase of pet food and pet supplies. In these rough economic times, many pet owners are forced to abandon their beloved pet to the ASPCA, North Shore Animal League or other animal shelters due to the inability to pay for their basic food supply and care. There are over 50 million Americans who currently receive Food Stamps, many with dogs or cats, who simply cannot afford to feed their animals, and these cherished companions are dropped off at animal shelters where they will most likely be put to sleep.” It continues, “The Pet Food Stamps program, due to the generosity of contributors and patrons, are able to eliminate that heart-wrenching decision by making sure these pet owners are given free monthly home delivery of all necessary food supplies to maintain the health and vitality of their pets.”

Here are a few more details, according to the program’s site:

- Provided a pet owner is approved and accepted into the program, it’s 100 percent free.

- Available pet food is listed at http://www.petfooddirect.com.

- Each pet owner is assessed individually, so he or she might be able to get products for more than one pet.

- The program is receiving thousands of applications per day, so it takes several weeks to receive a response.

- The food is mostly geared for dogs and cats, but provisions are also available for certain other small animals and reptiles.

Image: Don Mason/Corbis