Pet food stamps become a reality

March 20, 2013|By Kim Fernandez, For The Baltimore Sun

It’s a heartbreaking decision that thousands of devoted pet owners are forced to make every year: pay the bills or feed the dog or cat? The choice between paying for heat, water, or groceries and buying a bag of pet food is all too real for many families and as a result, many dogs and cats end up in shelters -- not because they weren’t loved, but because they were just too expensive.

New York entrepreneur Marc Okon decided to turn the sad trend into something positive and in late February launched Pet Food Stamps, a nonprofit organization that offers assistance to families who can’t afford food for their animals. It’s not a government organization, but it works just like subsidies for people: low-income pet owners or those who already receive regular food stamps can apply for free or reduced-cost pet food, which is delivered to their door from an online clearinghouse. Since its launch, the charity says it’s been swamped with thousands of applications from around the country.

Locally, Thankful Paws distributes free pet food to needy families several times per month -- check the website for dates and locations -- and the Petco Foundation distributes food through a partnership with Meals on Wheels. And while most local Humane Society offices do not currently offer food, they can help with discount spay/neuter and veterinary services.

Pet Food Stamps accepts donations on its website and by mail; it is a recognized New York state nonprofit corporation but has not yet received its 501(c)(3) tax status approval. It offers free and reduced-cost food for cats, dogs, small animals and reptiles, and all applications must be made online, at Currently, there is about a three-week wait for approval due to high demand.

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