A petition calling for food stamp benefits to be expanded to cover pet food has garnered almost 123,000 signatures.
Petition organizer Edward Johnston said the effort stems from his own experiences with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps.
“Unfortunately, SNAP benefits cannot be used to buy pet food, leaving poor families with pets in a difficult position,” said Johnston, who lives in Mississippi. “I am one of those Americans. 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.”
SNAP regulations limit what items can be purchased using the benefits. Alcohol, vitamins and medicine and hot foods are off limits, as are non-food items such as soap, paper products and household supplies. Pet foods are also on the prohibited list.
Johnston said using SNAP benefits for pets could help families who find themselves in difficult spot.
“Some argue that people should not keep pets if they cannot afford them, but 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? Or should they be able to utilize federal aid to continue feeding their pet?” Johnston said.
The regulations aren’t likely to change anytime soon, however, according to the USDA.
“The Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 defines eligible food as any food or food product for home consumption by SNAP households,” said a USDA spokesperson. “Nonfood items such as pet foods are ineligible for purchase with SNAP benefits under current federal law.”
Johnston’s Care2 Petition surpassed its 80,000 goal and has now topped 122,840 signatures with a new goal of 130,000.