Associated Press
Food stamps for pets organization based in New York says it already has 45,000 pets signed up for the donation-based program to feed pets of low-income families. Zen, a Shar Pei puppy, is carried by her owner Feb. 7, 2013.

Food stamps for pets provide more wiggle room in the home budget for 'Fluffy'

Food stamps for pets hopes to prevent pets from getting squeezed out of the home as family's tighten the financial belt. A donation-based program, food stamps for pets would provide pet chow to low-income families and food stamp recipients. 

As the economy continues to eat away at our budgets, struggling families are having to make the decision to tell the kids that a beloved animal companion must be sent to a high-kill shelter because there’s no room for “Fluffy” in the budget. Food stamps for pets is a new idea that can rescue parents from ever having to make that kind of choice.

According to ABC News, there’s a new donation-based program (at the time of posting, the website was down due to high traffic) to help families keep their pets. The Pet Food Stamps program wants to provide food stamps for pets of low-income families and for food stamp recipients who otherwise could not afford to feed their pets. This program helps all kinds of pets, including reptiles, with food aid.

We have four sons (one in college and one about to go in the fall), a big dog, two cats, and a mortgage. This is something I was glad to see happen.

The News-Herald, Ohio, recently reported that while the number of pet adoptions has remained steady, the number of surrendered pets from struggling owners has grown.

Geauga Humane Society Executive Director Hope Brustein told The News-Herald many animals are brought to Rescue Village in Russell Township because owners have lost their jobs or homes and tight budgets can no longer support them.

“There is no doubt that the economy impacts animals,” Brustein said.

It also impacts our children when we have to make the decision to cut loose a furry or scaly member of the family. I feel like the message a child receives from all this is that when we run out of things and then four-legged loved ones to toss overboard to keep this ship afloat, “You could be next.” It’s like a Shirley Temple movie.

So it’s not a big shock to find Pet Food Stamps is getting 3,000 requests per day and more than 45,000 pets have already been signed up in the past two weeks, the program’s founder and executive director Marc Okon told ABC.

The New York-based program does not give cash to families. Once need and income is verified, the families get pet food each month from pet food retailer Pet Food Direct for a six-month period. The program is not government funded, but works solely via donation.

Our community here in Norfolk, Va. has had another solution for the past several years via the Farm Fresh Supermarkets grocery store chain. Store policy allows shoppers to select a bag of food at the $5 and $10 levels to be donated to either people or pets. Last time I peeked into one of the pet bags (choose dog or cat) there were bags and cans of food and occasionally some treats too.

Since the organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is based here in Norfolk, I thought I’d see what they were up to. It turns out the organization has the Community Animal Project which offers assistance to those pets in need.

“I would tell people who are really down on their luck and considering giving up their companion animal we would urge them to take advantage of programs like these (Food Stamps for Pets) so that families don’t have to be broken up this way,” says PETA Cruelty Investigations senior vice president Daphna Nachminovich.  “If this program allows people to keep their companion animals then it’s a very good thing.”

I realize it’s embarrassing and hard to ask for help. However, as bank accounts deplete we do not have to diminish our families by surrendering our animal friends. We can keep our families whole because there are a whole lot more options out there than we may think.

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