Care2 Activists Call for SNAP Benefits to Cover Pet Food

A Care2 petition calling for SNAP benefits to cover pet food is turning heads, and it’s no wonder: The thought of having to surrender a pet to an animal shelter because you can’t afford food is heartbreaking.

And it happens frequently — possibly even more often than you think, especially in the case of pets who require special diets.

The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that around 36 percent of households include dogs, and 30 percent have cats — with some overlap. The costs of being a pet guardian can quickly mount up. Beyond routine veterinary care, pets may also need additional medical treatment, particularly if they’re older or dealing with health challenges.

And feeding a pet can also drain the wallet, whether guardians are trying to serve high quality food for a specific medical condition or relying on low-cost pet food that just provides basic nutrition.

Research conducted by the Humane Society of the United States found that among low-income pet owners, the costs of care are a major contributing factor in rehoming animals. Low-income people can live in extreme financial uncertainty. A missed paycheck, rent hike, unexpected family expense or other issue that might be minor for those with more money can be catastrophic for low-income families.

Some people may feel like they have to give up pets because they have no other options. They can’t afford to care for them, and they think that’s unlikely to change in the near future. Others may take their own SNAP benefits and try to stretch them to their pets. This is a problem that’s likely to worsen, with the GOP budget proposing cuts to welfare programs and administration officials pushing a work requirement program.

As is, it’s extremely difficult to eke out sufficient nutrition on SNAP benefits, and people who don’t receive adequate nutrients are at risk of short and long-term health problems.

The other issue with trying to make SNAP work for pets is that the dietary needs of animals differ substantially from those of humans. While it’s totally possible to make pet food at home using ingredients from the grocery store, butcher or farmers’ market, it can be challenging and costly — and it’s not necessarily possible to get the ingredients you need from the pre-approved list of foods covered by SNAP. This means that pets may get inadequate — and sometimes even dangerous — diets by sharing with their people.

Many pet guardians are deeply attached to their animals and have no desire to give them up. But having pets around the home isn’t just nice; these animals actually provide tangible benefits that can contribute to better human health, especially for those living in high-stress circumstances.

There’s definitely a compelling case to made for helping people to afford pet care. And if the benefits for individuals don’t sell you, maybe this will: Housing animals at shelters is costly, and more surrendered pets means an increased euthanasia rate. Cities concerned about the cost of animal care and control should be very interested in solutions that keep animals out of the shelter in the first place.

Convincing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to take up this cause requires concerted effort on the part of animal advocates, and it may take a while – particularly in an animal-hostile administration. In the meantime, there are several resources available for pet guardians who struggle to feed or care for their pets.

The first stop should be the local shelter: Some animal shelters have food pantries and free or low-cost basic veterinary care for low-income members of the community, and others may provide referrals for additional resources. This can include fostering, or temporary placement of needy animals while owners get back on their feet.

Food banks and housing support organizations may also maintain pet food pantries — and occasionally host free vaccination and spay/neuter clinics — as do some veterinary offices. If your pet needs a prescription or special diet, this can be a valuable resource — even if it’s just an assortment of sample bags.

RedRover provides a variety of support services for pet guardians in need, including assistance with emergency vet bills and sheltering for intimate partner violence survivors. If they are unable to provide aid, they can offer referrals to other organizations.

Take Action!

Join fellow activists by signing this Care2 petition calling on the USDA to reevaluate SNAP benefits.

This post has been updated. 

Photo credit: Siiremy


Marie W
Marie W10 months ago

Tks for sharing.

Elaine W
Elaine Wabout a year ago

Petition signed Jan 10th. thanks.

Michael F
Michael Fabout a year ago

Signed !!!

Michael F
Michael Fabout a year ago

Thank You for Sharing This !!!

Mary B
Mary Babout a year ago

I'm always appalled at the sicko people who are so much more worried about 'where's the money going to come from' to buy food for pets or poor people than they are for the people and pets. It's like they have no ability to see beyond or behind their stereotype of the low income. I bet even if they themselves were living that reality ,they would still be mindlessly repeating the same thing.

Stefania Stanciu
Stefania Stanciuabout a year ago


Roslyn McBride
Roslyn McBrideabout a year ago


Chrissie R
Chrissie Rabout a year ago

Not so sure. Pets also need reasonable health care. If you can't afford them maybe, in all fairness to them, you shouldn't have them.

Danii P
Past Member about a year ago


Ellie M
Ellie Mabout a year ago