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Food stamps for Fido and Fluffy?

A nonprofit group funds 'pet food stamps' for lower-income animal owners. Other options exist, too.

By Donna_Freedman Mar 21, 2013 10:52AM
Logo: Dog (Alley Cat Productions/Brand X/Corbis)Yep, you heard that right: A nonprofit called Pet Food Stamps is taking applications to provide free supplies for low-income pet owners.

The U.S. government is not involved. Again: not involved. Your tax dollars are not supporting someone's right to own a calico or corgi.

The program is open to people already receiving the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka food stamps) or who are living at or below the poverty level.

No money or electronic benefit cards change hands. If you're approved, pet products will be shipped to your home free of charge.

This begs the question: Should poor people even have pets?

Some would say "not if they can't afford to feed them." But keep in mind that some pet owners who once made good money have fallen on hard times, thanks to unemployment or illness or some other factor. Others have always lived close to the bone, as it were, but are willing to do without certain comforts in order to have the love and loyalty of a companion animal.

Here's what I think: If you have major consumer debt and/or an uncertain job situation, don't  adopt a pet. You could wind up with an even heavier debt load, especially if the animal gets sick or injured.

But if you already have a pet and believe its companionship irreplaceable? Read on.

Local and national sources

Rather than pin all your hopes on the Pet Food Stamps program -- which surely can't help everyone who applies -- start searching for other options.

A great source of information is the "Having trouble affording your pet?" section of the Humane Society of the United States website. It's a long, long list of regional and national organizations that offer food, supplies, vet care and even grooming. 

Note: The page also has a free or low-cost spaying/neutering link. Use it. If you're having trouble caring adequately for the pets you already have, don't allow them to make more mouths you can't feed.

While the Humane Society list is terrific, it's not comprehensive. For example, it includes resources in Canada and Puerto Rico but not Alaska or South Carolina.

That doesn't mean those states have no animal charities, but rather that some local groups operate without publicity. has a food bank donation program, i.e., you can donate in their stores. The website links to the names of local groups that receive the food -- which is how I found that programs exist in two cities in Alaska and seven in South Carolina. Check the site for programs in your own region.

Other sources

A national group called Pets of the Homeless distributes food and supplies at places like rescue missions, homeless shelters and soup kitchens. If you're currently couch-surfing versus living at a shelter you might not know that, so follow the link to see if there's aid in your area.

Contact food banks in your city. They may be set up to feed humans, but some also collect pet food and supplies.

Ask your vet about local groups, including animal rescue organizations whose members might temporarily foster your pet or donate supplies. 

If you're physically able, offer to trade pet services (walking, scooping, grooming) or pet-sitting for animal food and supplies. Maybe a friend wouldn't mind throwing an extra bag of kibble into her shopping cart if she knew you'd keep her dog whenever she goes out of town.

A few more options:

  • Talk to social service agencies in your area. Don't know where to start? Call 211 or visit
  • Sign up for The Freecycle Network if there's a chapter in your area. I've seen pet food and supplies being given away.
  • Do a daily Internet search for "free pet food." Companies offer free samples or even full-sized products via Facebook and freebie bloggers. I ran one such offer in my free-stuff column this week: a printable Petco coupon for a free 13-ounce can of Pro Plan dog food. (No printer? Ask a friend or family member to do the honors, or print it at the library.)
  • Put the word out that you're in need of some temporary assistance. Maybe somebody knows somebody who knows somebody who's willing to help.

More on MSN Money:

Mar 28, 2013 2:19PM

animals are not disposable, even if you hit hard times financially. i think this program is a great idea

Mar 21, 2013 4:20PM
Mar 28, 2013 3:05PM
Awesome charity! I am constantly getting hit up to support United Way, Susan G. Komen, St. Jude and so many more wonderful charities, but this is one I would definitely find extra money to support. I admit that I already spend a good hunk of my paycheck on my many pets, but why not? For many people, their pet is the one bright spot in their life.
Mar 28, 2013 3:01PM

While the Humane Society of the United States website may have a long list of places low income pet owners can turn to for assistance, anyone who donates or logs on to needs to know that  the HSUS itself is the leading cause of both the problems of


1.  cash-strapped shelters and

2.  the needless killing of adoptble animals in cruel and dysfunctional shelters (see the No Kill blog for more on that)


HSUS raises well over $100 million a year off the backs of homeless dogs and cats - and gives less than one half of one percent of it to pet shelters.  HSUS raised $35 million "for Hurricane Katrina pet rescue" and spent just 20% on the disaster.  The Louisiana Attorney General spent 18 months waiting for HSUS to account for the money it fleeced - HSUS could not.  HSUS's entire Emergency Response Team resigned in 2009 rather than work for team leader Scotlund Haisley,  an unqualified, bar and strip-club obsessed dude who expected the team to impersonate law enforcement officers.  HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle,  who thinks Michael Vick is a dog lover, had to fire Haisley because of ongoing lawsuits for illegal raids.  Pacelle replaced him with Haisley's second in command,a bar-hopping fellow misogynist named Rowdy Shaw.





Mar 28, 2013 3:33PM
I think this is a wonderful idea.  And I'm glad they specified this isn't coming out of tax-payers pockets so the radicals won't have a head-spinning fit.  Oh wait...they refuse to listen or believe anything that doesn't come from Faux they will be having their fit after all.  Sorry.  Anyway, I plan to find out where I might donate in my community. 
Mar 28, 2013 3:04PM

Okay, first of all, this program is NOT funded by the government, so this article is totally unrelated to the one about death panels.  And the reporting of various journalists is just that...reporting, unless it is an ed-op column, which makes it more irrelevant.

That being said, let's think about the extreme number of animals being put down in shelters and reconsider this issue.  Pets can be a huge benefit in so many ways to people who need help.  They can even be the motivating factor  perhaps in going out and getting a job.  Not to mention what they can do for your mental and physical well being.  If the government isn't paying for this, and the article clearly states that it is not, then let's get some dogs and cats out of shelters and into homes where everyone can benefit! 

@  You said, "That was my best friend".  Well, many poor people could use a "best friend", too.  As a responsible dog owner, I generally agree that people need to be able to care for their pets in every way, and for the lifetime of the animal.   BUT, again, considering all the animals in shelters, I think there is something to be said for a program like this.  And think about it,  many of the animals that are in shelters now are a direct result of the economy tanking.  I'm sure that some of  the owners of those pets probably had jobs when they decided to get a dog, cat, whatever, and then suddenly found themselves without the means to support themselves, let alone a pet.  It must have been a double blow to those who were forced, through no fault of their own, to have to give up their "best friend".  Maybe if this program had been around back in 2008, some of those folks could have kept the pets they probably loved as much as you loved yours.
Apr 27, 2013 6:26PM
I would rather see Fido get free food than a bunch of damn illegal aliens !!!
Mar 28, 2013 6:27PM

Anything that can help innocent animals, especially when the help is coming from benefactors, is worth doing. If you doubt this, go spend some time in shelters to witness first hand their plight, especially municipal shelters. Hopeless overcrowding is the norm. This invariably means healthy animals have to be killed to make room for the never-ending, heartbreaking intake. This also means diseases are easily transmitted further dooming otherwise healthy animals who usually are lonely, frightened and depressed. The aggregate waste of unconditional love and fidelity is incalculable and disgraceful to human integrity.


Our dogs and cats who mean so much to us deserve all the help they can get.

Aug 1, 2013 5:59AM
I'd rather have my tax dollars go to animals any day than the worthless, useless pathetic human leeches and parasites who for generations have refused to work and support thmeslevs and their spawn.
Mar 28, 2013 5:46PM
Don't get me wrong.  This is a great idea to help people who have lost jobs or have hit hard times.  I am only against people who get pets who cannot afford to take care of them when they get them.  I believe people who are thinking of getting pets should consider the adoption or purchase of a pet as a commitment for that animal's entire life and not treat it as a disposable item that can be given away if the living situation changes or the animal grows too large for the basket.  Also some people don't put any work into training a pet and then later when the animal has behavior problems, they don't like it any more.
May 13, 2013 2:54PM

I'VE NOT wondered about the dumb dicisions our government makes.  Just lood at the dumb a---- responders 62-6 for free pet foods.  Have you folks seen the conditions that "poor" people and their pets usually live?

Mar 28, 2013 4:24PM

Okay im 20 years old and im on EBT, its suppose to be just for me but i feed my boyfriend and our roommate and i only get 200 a month. do i look for a job yes i do,but its not easy to get a job but i do try. food stamps are not bad if you really need them, yes i do have a dog and she is my little girl, i feed her buy her toys with odd jobs. pet stamps are great.

Mar 26, 2013 9:57PM
This is almost a continuation of FW Little's comment. One must not have what one cannot afford.  We need to prepare ourselves for parenthood, for having a pet, etc.  I also had a pet that required a lot of care and belive me it far exceeded 1100. I went on to give my long life friend of 13 years a back surgery that cost me 12,000usd. I could afford that amount, with sacrifice ofcourse, but I paid out regardless because that was my best friend.  I would have never considered a pet if I could not afford one or find a mean to afford one.  In addition, I don't feel pets are for children.  They might show children valuable lessons but nevertheless they are for us adults that CAN provide for them.  Pets are our responsibility never a childs responsibility; nor should we get a pet for a child.  We should get a pet for ourselves, the adults, and share their love with our our children.  Note though that WE adults are the responsible parties.
Mar 21, 2013 12:06PM
Amazing... one MSN money article today is about why we ought to support the notion of death panels for the elderly and ill, while another is about free pet food and veterinary care for the impoverished who own pets. It would be laughable if it weren't so terribly sad. Does anyone else pick up on the irony of MSN's various financial columnists? So... elderly and ill ought to be deprived of budget-draining medical care they paid into (mandatory, btw), but pets of the homeless are entitled to a comfortable life? Seriously? All published on the same day? At the same money website as news? We've become a very messed up nation. Or at least this has become a very messed up online news and information source.
Mar 28, 2013 5:28PM
It's great if temporary solutions can be worked out to help people feed and care for long-term pets through charitable and non-profit agencies.  However, if you are on Public assistance, you should not have a pet.  I don't care how much your kids want a puppy or a cat.  Go to work and earn the food for your kids first and then keep working until you get off all assistance, and you can then earn enough to afford pet food and VET CARE for the pet.  People on public assistance should bnot be provided with luxuries on the taxpayers' money.  That includes designer labels, dinners in restaurants, vacations, and pets.  I agree that animals are not disposable.  You should not get a pet until you have a stable place to keep one and can afford everything your pet will ever require.  I just find it ridiculous to see multiple dogs in the yards of people who don't have jobs and have never had a job.  You don't get to spend your money on dog food.  Get a job.
Mar 28, 2013 3:16PM
If you can't afford to take care of yourself, you don't deserve an animal.  We are becoming a handout society.  There is a segment of the population that is struggling, but isn't on assistance and they can't afford animals.   Rather than giving all our money away, let's use it to try to grow our GDP and get people working so that the burden isn't so great on the people that are working.  Taxes are rising and more and more people are getting benefits.  We need more people paying taxes.
Food stamps for your dog. What is next? Medical for your pet? Obamacare for your pet?
Mar 21, 2013 4:18PM

I love animals but truth is they cost money. Case in point: several DECADES ago a cat

developed a  respiratory problem which required vet treatment. Before the weekend ended, intensive care respiratory solutions totaled $1100.  Upon reaching $1100,  I

authorized  the bubble-machine be stopped, paid the bill, grieved for the cat and never

let pet care exceed $200 thereafter. Pets are good for children and I applaud parents

giving pets to kids, though I crusade about unprepared adults having children before

they have training, career tenure and a sizable nest-egg for life's expenses. We should HAVE/CONTROL that which we can provide, want and wish but which requires sacrifice.

The buck stops there as it should. 


"No tacked, no redemption...."  Taxpayers expect that aware responsible management

will be accorded benefit program recipients. Why should a hard working stressed

middle-class taxpayer who foregoes family vacation/weekly pizza/cable services/Friday

outings, etc. 'host'  a "needy single-parent family whose ten year old has a Great Dane?'

Why should a high earning swinging single "host" a unwed mother of three who doesn't

work or isn't enrolled (and SUCCEEDING) in career development attempts? Why should a millionaire  "adopt financial responsibility" for an ailing low-income senior because he (the millionair) can bear the tax burden? 


Or, "if I didn't study when I was a kid or obey society's norms" why should I get breaks,

pet food (like those who worked harder to have pets), or extended family members (unwed mothers or destitute seniors who never bothered to save)?


One can't spend what isn't there and shouldn't celebrate or buy what can't be paid. We

vote for miracles that burden our progeny as though it was only a grain of rice. Then,

after we've voted and indebted the district for 20 years, we pass bonds for event

celebrations; or we celebrate (at much cost) but ignore interest-bearing debts that

should have been paid instead. Food stamps for pet food, canteen drugs, pleasures??

Give them an inch and they will take a mile and a trillion and still want more .......   

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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.