Well Being

What Are Animal Food Stamps?

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Can you imagine being put between feeding your beloved pet and feeding yourself? Hundreds of thousands of Americans are placed in such a predicament each year, with many being forced to either go hungry themselves or actually abandon their pets, increasing their malnutrition issues or the overflowing animal shelter population, respectively. However, a new program is giving hope to those in need with adorable mouths to feed: pet food stamps.

Marc Okon launched Animal Food Stamps in February after realizing how many people were making this terrible choice each day, including a friend of his who admitted that sometimes she fed her cat and went hungry. “She told me she sometimes feeds her cat before herself and goes without eating,” he said to ABC. “I felt horrible, and the term ‘pet food stamps' entered my mind. It stayed with me until recently when I pursued it further and was able to open up this non-profit nationally.”

Food stamps for animals is similar to food stamp programs for humans in that it helps the hungry, but there are some differences. The nonprofit directly gives free pet food to owners in need via donations and PetFlow.com. Owners who need supplemental food simply log on to Animal Food Stamps, fill out a form and wait for the organization to send a representative to verify information, perform an income check and approve or reject their application. If applicants already qualify for regular food stamps or are below the poverty line, they will likely be approved.

Since its launch, Animal Food Stamps has received over 125,000 applications for 250,000 pets. After being approved, recipients can get as much as six months of food; after that, they will be required to apply again.

Pet food stamps aren't just feeding animals, they're also preventing more from winding up in the overcrowded, underfunded shelters of America. “Seven million pets are surrendered to shelters each year with four million being killed due to lack of food,” says Okon. As a response to this issue, Okon's organization sends literature to shelters all over the country in order to help pet owners perhaps reconsider giving up their pets.

By keeping these owners and their pets under the same roof, Animal Food Stamps is not only rescuing animals from possible death at a shelter, they're also allowing families to stay  together — something that no other program has so wonderfully done.

Photo: Tommy Lew / Flickr