Pet Food Stamps, a new non-profit based in New York City, is offering assistance to tens of thousands of low-income pet owners across the nation.
The program has garnered some criticism: Some believe that being able to afford pet food with assistance will not help pay for shots, neutering, and other pet-related expenses, while some are simply critical of social assistance for animals, even if it is not from tax-payer money.
“More Incentives for a dependent Cradle to Grave (even pets!),” read one of many scathing Tweets from Tuesday.
Michael Barrett, vice president of grants management at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), addressed these criticisms.
“While some people might scoff at the idea of a pet food bank at first glance as something outlandish or simply low in priority in our society’s response to poverty and other economic challenges, it’s important to emphasize that most pets’ owners consider their pets to be part of the family, and pets are likely to be a significant source of emotional support and simple moments of joy that financially distressed families rely on during hard times,” Barrett wrote in an email.
A variety of net programs exist already to help struggling pet owners in various ways. The programs primarily prevent animals from ending up in overcrowded shelters.
The ASPCA has spent $2 million since its grants department opened in 2008 to provide veterinary care, food, vaccinations, and education assistance to pet owners.
The Pet Food Stamps program could be an avenue to communicate with struggling pet owners in order to inform them of these other services, according to Dr. Stephen Zawistowski, science adviser at the ASPCA.
He said that such programs will not likely encourage low-income people who would not otherwise have pets to think they can now afford them.
“The reality is that people on public assistance already own pets,” Zawistowski wrote in an email. “Most pets are acquired from friends, neighbors and relatives at little or no cost, so the barriers to acquisition are not substantial.”
Pet Food Stamps is gaining traction—the website is so busy, it was temporarily unavailable Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon. Founder Marc Okon told ABC News that he gets several thousand applications daily. With many of the applications including multiple pets, the number of pets applied for so far totals more than 40,000.
Income background checks are done to ensure that the applicant qualifies. According to Okon, if people qualify for federal food assistance, they will probably qualify for pet food stamps.
He said, “The love of a pet, the therapeutic ability of a pet and things like that are impossible to measure.”
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