A New York-based nonprofit group is trying to help low-income families around the nation by offering "food stamps" for pets.
Pet Food Stamps seeks to aid disadvantaged pet-owners across the U.S. who need help caring for their beloved animals, ABC New Mexico affiliate KVIA reports. The program provides free monthly home delivery of all necessary food supplies to those who qualify.
Marc Okon is the man behind Pet Food Stamps. The recently launched program is already a success. In only two weeks, more than 45,000 pets have already been signed up for food stamps, according to ABC News.
"I received a letter from a woman who is on food stamps," Okon explained to KVIA. "She lost her job recently. She's a single mother of a severely disabled young boy, and she said his only companion and his only mode of communication is with the family dog, and they're thinking about getting rid of the dog because they can't afford to feed it. It's people like that that this program is aimed to help."
Approximately 47 million Americans receive benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, NBC News reported in November. Fully 15 percent of the population is on food stamps.
Many of those people have cats and dogs, and they struggle to feed their pets, Pet Food Stamps states on its website. If they cannot afford food, families have been driven to surrender their pets to shelters.
But those who qualify for public assistance are likely to qualify for private help from Pet Food Stamps as well. The group is funded through "the generosity of contributors and patrons," according to its website. It provides pet food through a partnership with Pet Food Direct and is able to supply families in the program for up to six months, according to the website.
"It's aimed at preventing people from having to choose feeding themselves or their animals or having to surrender them to a high-kill shelter," Okon explained to New Mexico's KRQE.
At least one animal shelter is hoping the food-stamps-for-pets program will help ease its burden.
"When people are going through difficult situations, where they've lost their jobs or their home is foreclosed, the last thing they need to do is lose their very best friend," Dawn Glass, marketing director at Animal Humane New Mexico, told KRQE.