By, Sammy Caiola
Native Foods Cafe
Following the November 1st reductions to the national food stamp program, millions of Americans are facing budgetary constraints that make it tougher to feed the whole family- especially pets. Fortunately, one New York nonprofit is providing food stamps for domestic animals, so that households in need can ensure the health and vitality of furry friends during hard times.
Because the national food stamp program does not allow participants to purchase pet food, The Pet Food Stamps Program in New York provides an option for individuals who cannot afford to feed their pets. To apply for the program (which receives no government funding), an individual must be on regular food stamps, welfare or social security and must fill out a thorough application. Once approved for pet stamps, the program coordinates monthly pet food deliveries to the participants’ home. Pretty neat, huh?
Native Foods Cafe uses this photo courtesy of petfoodstamps.org.
And it couldn’t come at a more crucial time. As the economy worsens, more and more people abandon their pets out of an inability to feed them, resulting in an overflow of stray animals and, consequently, a higher kill rate at overcrowded shelters. Providing people with the resources they need can prevent them from sending a near-starved animal to the curb.
Which brings me to another point about stray animals as street companions. I often see impoverished or homeless people begging on street corners with feline or canine companions. I wonder if this animal is being cared for or if it’s merely being exploited. I sometimes feel more compelled to give change in the hopes that the owner will feed the lethargic-looking animal, which is often sitting in a shopping cart or on a pile of garbage.
But, upon further research, it seems that these pets are relatively well cared-for. Pets of the Homeless, a non-profit that brings pet food and veterinary care to areas where homeless people congregate, states that for most homeless people, their pet is their closest friend and the only element of normalcy in an otherwise tumultuous existence. The homeless rely on pets for company as well as protection, and when interviewed some even attested to feeding their animals before themselves. The non-profit estimates that of the 3-5 million homeless people in the U.S., 5 to 10 percent have pets, but that number is as high as 24 percent in rural areas. And when I think about the fact that these animals would probably be on the street regardless, it doesn’t seem to terrible for them to have a human friend.
Native Foods Cafe uses this photo courtesy of petsofthehomeless.org.
Want to help? Good, because they need it. Pets of the Homeless has sites all over the country where you can volunteer to repackage donated pet food, recruit sponsors and work at soup kitchens to spread the word about the program. And if you’re looking for a place to be charitable during the holiday season, Pet Food Stamps accepts tax-deductible donations. These animals are struggling because their owners are struggling, and pets don’t choose their owners. So next time you meet someone struggling to feed a pet, do not hesitate to find them some dog food or direct them to an organization that can help. It’s a cause worth fighting for.