An online petition lobbying the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to expand its food stamp program to include pet food has garnered more than 100,000 digital signatures and national media coverage.
The petition, circulated by Edward B Johnston Jr. on thepetitionsite.com, has received more than 118,000 supporters, just short of its goal of 120,000. Johnston writes that he has been on food stamps for a few months, but he is unable to feed his little dog because of government regulations.
As of Oct. 2017, 45.6 million people receive food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) administered by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service. The assistance cannot be used to purchase pet food.
Johnston argues in the petition that rule should be eliminated:
“Some argue that people should not keep pets if they cannot afford them, but the fact is that an individual or family’s financial status can change at any time. Should someone be forced to give up a pet they’ve had for years just because they hit a financial rough patch? Or should they be able to utilize federal aid to continue feeding their pet?
“Pets are also important for emotional support. Being poor is hard enough without being expected to give up your companion. For most people, pets are considered family, not property.”
The USDA responded with a statement suggesting it would not adopt the policy change.
“The Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 defines eligible food as any food or food product for home consumption by SNAP households,” a USDA spokesperson said. “Nonfood items such as pet foods are ineligible for purchase with SNAP benefits under current federal law.”