Federal food stamp program should, in a SNAP, allow pet food purchases

By on January 24, 2018 with 24 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

A heart-tugging issue has surfaced as lawmakers prepare to dig into details of the Farm Bill, a catchall package of items relating to agriculture and food policy in the United States.

Should recipients of food stamps be allowed to purchase food for their hungry pets with the finite federal support they receive through the program?

Edward B. Johnston, Jr., a 59-year-old Mississippian who gets by with the help of food stamps, has initiated a petition on Care2 that has attracted more than 83,000 signatures thus far. It calls on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to allow food stamp beneficiaries to buy pet food for their animals if they deem that essential. The food stamp program, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), allows recipients to only buy food meant for human consumption.

As Johnston writes in his petition to the USDA, the inability to use food stamps for pet food leaves “poor families with pets in a difficult position.”

“I am one of those Americans,” he writes. “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.”

Millions of Americans and their pets live at or below the poverty level, and frequently they live in underserved communities where there is a lack of access to affordable pet resources. This is a major concern of our Pets for Life program. Staff and volunteers for the program, which works in such communities to provide veterinary care, pet food, and other aid to pets and those who care about them, have been consistently moved by the power of the human-animal bond everywhere they turn.

Even as these families struggle to get by, they embrace their responsibilities as caregivers to their pets. The animals are central to their lives and their emotional health. Scarce financial resources do not mean any scarcity of love in their hearts for their animals. People already making tough decisions should not have to deal with even more worry and stress because the government says they cannot feed their animals with the federal assistance they receive.

Some people who cannot find a way to feed their animals may turn them over to a local animal shelter. That not only leaves these people heartbroken, but it means that the local government or nonprofit shelter then must bear the cost of caring for a newly homeless animal.

Using a very limited federal allowance for people in poverty to feed their beloved dogs or cats is not an abuse of the system, nor an affront to taxpayers. It is a matter of survival for animals, and it allows people to have the comfort of knowing that their best friend is not going to have to go hungry.

The government does not allow food stamps for alcohol or cigarettes, and that makes sense. But it makes no sense at all to bar pet food purchases and limit the discretion of food-stamp recipients who are trying to keep their families together, including their beloved pets.

Congress needs to take action now and revise the definition of food in SNAP to include pet food. Lawmakers should understand the power of the human-animal bond, and that it’s alive and well in all communities in our nation, including those where so many struggle to make ends meet.

Companion Animals, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. Janet Hart says:

    Absolutely food stamps should be allowed to be used to purchase pet food! This is critical to the survival of the pets. Sodas, no…but pet food, yes!

  2. georgia gillespie says:

    Your blogs are quite wonderful; I read every word. you give us the latest info on so many disparate issue, plus addressing common issues in detail the reader may not have previously approached carefully. yes, food stamp allowances for pets is crucial…pets are so important for teaching empathy…and we certainly do not have much of that anymore. Thank you for this excellent blog/column!

  3. Maria says:

    This shouldn’t be a question but a resounding YES!

  4. Rosemary Biggins says:

    Seems stupid to me NOT to allow animal food in this programme! They are a big part of the family so need to be fed!!!

  5. Raquel says:

    Food stamps recipients should MUST DEFINITELY be allowed to buy food for their pets. Pets MUST be respected and not ever abused.

    • Ada Mason says:

      Dept of agriculture must go much further than this !! All animal abuse/ neglect should be a second degree felony and the language in the law should read that prosecutors and judges MUST give MAXIMUM sentence. By not doing so, these people are breeding sociopaths. IF these cases make it to court right now ( most do not ) judges slap them on the hand and send them on their way. We just had another case here in Lima where 2 guys beat a woman’s shepherd to death and set him on fire !!! NOTHING HAS BEEN DONE !!!!! WHY do our lawmakers not care that these pets are literally our children and should be protected as such ??? They have so many feelings just as a human does. Except they are ALL LOVE !!! WHY do they allow all this abuse on them ? All the breeding, etc. ANYONE that harms an animal in any way WILL go on to do other violent crimes.

  6. Jan says:

    Homeless animals need to eat too.

    • Christina Huerta says:

      I think we should be able to buy food pet food with our food stamps for our little pets I’m on a fixed income about to get kicked out and every night I look at my little ones with their hungry eyes and I have no food to give them can anybody help me please thank you

  7. Anne Motsis says:

    Include pet food as needed food assistance!

  8. Madelaine Haberman says:

    Pets should absolutely be included for food assistance.
    Do the right thing to keep them alive.

  9. Maria Roberts says:

    Absolutely! Pets are very important in people’s lives, they are family. Especially people that are struggling should have the companionship of a pet. When life isn’t good, they give comfort and love. So important.

  10. Diane Elliott says:

    Animals provide companionship, comfort, protection and help reduce anxiety. Should a pet and the family be punished because they fell on hard times? I have been low on money for food and shared cereal with my dog till we could sell something, no matter how small. The first thing I did was buy appropriate pet food. I know I am not alone buying 10 for 1$ cup of soup to be able to provide for my pets. They don’t understand. Please provide pet essentials with these funds. It is only humane!

  11. Sha'Anna Mouton says:

    Yes, because it’s food regardless the species. And don’t we all need food to survive? Most people can’t afford to feed everyone outta pocket, so allowing dog food to be on food stamps that’s a plus.

    • david white says:

      I am a disabled person with a service dog. My only source of income is $998 per month from ssa, and $50 per month from s.n.a.p. plus i live in San Francisco Ca. My life and that of my sweet dog Mia would be so much happier if i could use snap benifits . I do the best i can she is always fed even when i am not.

      • Dillon Eagen says:

        There are 100s of recipes on how to make dog food from scratch with good human food. I understand the government doesn’t want to pay for your pets. If the pet is so special, yes my pet is one of those. You can cook and freeze food for your pup and it’s actually healthier than most dog food. So cook for your dog and yourself together. You may find you eat healthier as well.

  12. Scarlett Ginn says:

    No they should not, that patition is redundant. My husband has kidney failure and was denied for food stamps. He is dying and gets no help. But by all means. Give it to a dog. Millions of Americans can get no help save a dog not a human.

    • Joyce Sanford says:

      So u only saying that cause your husband can’t get none am very sorry he going threw that an my prayer going up for you but please don’t allow yourself to condemn a pet for that everyone should eat free if u ask an again I pray your husband get better sweetie

    • Ruby says:

      So because your husband couldn’t get stamps pets need to suffer? That’s crazy to some people their pet is all the family its not fair to deprive them of food because they walk on four leg don’t have opposable thumbs and your feeling bad about your the death of a loved one the only difference between us and pets is species were still scientifically animals so if they should starve and die after all they do for us we should be treated the same way

  13. Orjan Bling Hasker says:

    Should not be allowed more than 2 pets if we are to do this. Clearly people will abuse the system,.

  14. Rachel McCarthy says:

    Fantastic idea!

  15. Toni Dillon says:

    I think people on food stamps should be able to purchase dog food with their stamps. Dogs are living, breathing creatures. They protect us, they are loyal and they love us. They give us so much. Anyone who thinks a dog should go hungry is a cold-hearted piece of ****

  16. camille tortora says:

    People need pets to enrich their lives they should allow pets to eat too let snap feed hungry pets

  17. Gina says:

    Yes u should be able to buy dog food they are part of your fanily

  18. Wendi says:

    How about putting some kind of cap on what businesses are allowed to sell pet food for. It’s outrageous and obvious gauging. And yes I think you should be able to use your food stamps for your animals food. It’s so obvious. It’s food , right?

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