The food stamp program offering assistance to needy families doesn’t go far enough to help people in dire financial straights, according to the signers of a new petition.
“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,” Edward Johnston, Jr., writes in a petition on Care2, asking the Department of Agriculture to expand food stamps to cover pet food purchases.
Nearly 85,000 people had signed the petition as of Tuesday, though it’s highly unlikely that the government would expand the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, to cover pet food.
Most pet owners consider their animal charges to be part of the family, not property, Johnston wrote. “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?,” the petition says.
“Being poor is hard enough without being expected to give up your companion,” Johnston wrote.
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More than 40 million Americans are on food stamps in the U.S., down from a peak of nearly 48 million in 2013. President Donald Trump has pitched ideas for reducing the number of people on food stamps through more work requirements, and so far the trend has declined.
“As more families struggle with difficult choices like paying the rent or buying food, some have to choose between keeping their pet and putting food on the table,” Bill Thomas, supply chain officer with Feeding America, said in a statement. “We know that pets provide comfort to families and individuals, and those who are struggling financially more than likely will also need food for their pets.”
The food stamps program has long prohibited the purchase of pet food with the federal benefits, and that is unlikely to change.
Animal rights groups, however, welcome the discussion. “It’s potentially game-changing,” Matt Bershadker, president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, told The Washington Post. “I think we should get behind this in a big way.”
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