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Food stamps for Fido? Program helps needy families feed pets

Feb. 26, 2013 at 12:30 PM ET

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The donation-based non-profit Pet Food Stamps program aims to provide families on financial assistance with a way to feed their pets.

Hey brother, can you spare a snausage?

With more than 46 million Americans currently on food stamp assistance, the newly-created "Pet Food Stamps" program aims to help people who are struggling financially to feed their pets. Based in New York City, the donation-based program's status as a non-profit is pending. The program, which is not affiliated with the federal government, is available to anyone in the United States and evaluates each claim by need and income.

The program will provide qualified families with pet food for six months by having them order it through independent retailer Pet Food Direct, which is not a subsidiary or affiliated in any way with the Pet Food Stamps program, according to the program's website. The recipients are given an allotment to spend at Pet Food Direct, the food is ordered through Pet Food Stamps staffers, and is then delivered to the members' homes.

"As of today, the Pet Food Stamps program chooses to use Pet Food Direct for a variety of reasons,'' program founder and executive director Marc Okon told TODAY.com in an email. "Executives I have dealt with were more amenable to our needs. We do have affiliate status, which allows us to generate revenue from non-PFS members who purchase on (Pet Food Direct's) site using a specific code designated for us. Because our staff will be placing each individual order on their website there is no partnership - just a simple transaction.''

The program does not receive any funding from the federal government, which funds the food stamp program, and there is no federal program that provides food stamps for pets. Funds for Pet Food Stamps come from private donations from individuals and businesses, according to the program’s website, which accepts online donations.

“It aims to prevent people from having to choose from feeding themselves or their pets or having to surrender their pet to a high-kill shelter,’’ Okon told KRQE News.

The response has been immediate, as more than 45,000 pets have been signed up in the past two weeks, Okon told the station. The Pet Food Stamps website also crashed multiple times after receiving more than 50,000 visits per minute on Monday, according to a post on the program’s Facebook page. The only way to apply for the program at this time is online through the organization's website.

Later this year, Pet Food Stamps is expected to add free or heavily discounted veterinary care for pets from eligible families as part of the program. Many local pet food banks across the country offer free or discounted veterinary care as well as food, but often the food is for dire emergencies and is not a long-term solution, which Pet Food Stamps aims to remedy.

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