A viral new petition is asking the federal government to extend food stamp benefits to pet food.
The Care2 petition, called "Don't Let Pets Starve - Include Pet Food in SNAP Benefits!," has more than 100,000 signatures as of Tuesday.
Under the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, households cannot use Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to buy pet food, according to the USDA.
The petition's author, Edward B Johnston Jr, argues that low-income Americans who rely on food stamps should not have to choose between feeding their families and keeping their pets.
"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," Johnston wrote.
The petition argues that a family's financial status can change at any moment, so pet owners should not be forced to give up their animals just because they can't afford them.
Providing better access to pet food not only reduces the number of animals relinquished to shelters; it improves the quality of family life as well, Colleen Doherty, senior director of ASPCA Community Engagement, told ABC7NY.
"Research shows that people experiencing economic distress love and are just as committed to their pets as those with more resources," Doherty said. "The ASPCA believes that pets and people belong together and that financial circumstances alone are not reliable indicators of the capacity to care for a companion animal."
In New York City, at-risk pet owners in need of pet food should reach out to the ASPCA or Food Bank for New York City.
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Viral petition asks for food stamps to pay for pet food