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Viral petition seeks to include pet food in food stamps

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A 59-year-old man from Mississippi is petitioning the Department of Agriculture to let people use food stamps on pet food.

Edward Johnston Jr says he was forced to apply for SNAP benefits after he a "financial rough patch." He says he's been on SNAP benefits for a few months but hasn’t been able to feed his dog due to government regulations.

He created the petition on Care2 and by Tuesday morning he had more than 100,000 supporters.

"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?

According to the American Pet Products Association,14 percent of all households who own a pet make less than $25,000 per year. Food for dogs and cats averages $235 per year, according to the Pet Products Association.

Johnston says the cost leaves people with no choice but to feed their pets human food, which isn't healthy for the pet or their owner.

Each year, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized (670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats) according to the ASPCA.

“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," Johnston writes. "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?”

It would take an Act of Congress to allow pet food to be purchased under the SNAP program and according to experts, passage of any new legislation is a long shot.

Here is the full petition:

"Each year, over 40 million low- or no-income people in the United States rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to help purchase food for themselves and their families. It is the most wide-reaching program in the domestic hunger safety net, helping keep millions of families from starving.
But what about their pets? Unfortunately, SNAP benefits cannot be used to buy pet food, leaving poor families with pets in a difficult position. I am one of those Americans. I have only been on SNAP benefits for a few months, but I have been unable to feed my little dog due to government regulations. Please sign this petition if you think SNAP benefits should extend nutrition assistance to include pet food! 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. Please sign this petition, and together let's urge the USDA to expand SNAP benefits to include pet food. Eligible items that may be purchased with SNAP benefits are determined on a federal level by USDA."

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