Online petition proposing extension of food stamps to pet food getting national attention

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PITTSBURGH, Pa. — There are thousands of animals in shelters across western Pennsylvania. The reasons why vary, but a big one is simply the inability of owners to pay for pet food.

Forty million Americans use food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and one man wants to extend the food stamp program to pet food.

Edward B. Johnston Jr., a 58-year-old man from Mississippi, says he fell on hard times and can’t bear to watch his dog go hungry. He started an online petition on the popular site, Care2, and has nearly 100,000 signatures.

Johnston says he’s unable to feed his dog due to government regulations and wants people to sign the petition if they, too, think SNAP benefits should extend nutrition assistance to pet food.

For the petition, click here. 

KDKA-TV’s Kym Gable talked to Animal Friends and North Hills Community Outreach about the idea, which experts agree, has little chance of clearing federal hurdles.

“Families can’t afford pet care, vet bills, even food,” said Animal Friends’ Shannon Tremblay. “It just breaks our heart.”

Tremblay says Animal Friends sponsors the Chow Waggin’ campaign, a program that collects donations of food and supplies for animals, then transports them to local food pantries.

“We know people love their pets and will do anything to keep them and want to make sure people are getting a nutritious diet, but also that pets are too,” she said.

Sharon Wolf, the executive director of North Hills Community Outreach, says if people are eligible for SNAP benefits, “that means they are also probably eligible to use their local food pantry, so they should explore that option [to feed their pets].”

It looks like Johnston will surpass his goal of 95,000 signatures.