Food Stamps for Fido: Caring for pets when money gets tight - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Food Stamps for Fido: Caring for pets when money gets tight

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

For many people, pets are more than just four-legged friends, they're part of the family. So, what happens when money gets tight and you have to make some sacrifices?

A new program founded by New York based entrepreneur Marc Okon aims to help keep animals out of shelters when the going gets tough. Okon said a few years back, he had a friend who was on food stamps. Okon said she told him she would often times feed her cat before she fed herself. Her situation is how Okon came up with the idea of Pet Food Stamps, a non-profit that gives people receiving government assistance food for their pets. Applicants sign up online, and volunteers then reach out to those applicants to begin the verification process. In order to qualify, applicants must submit a state ID and the address matching the award letter for government benefits.

Once that process is complete, animal owners are eligible for pet food delivery for 6 months. Okon said his organization is based purely off donations which go to PayPetFlow.com. That company ships the food out directly to the applicant. Okon said there's about an 8-week wait, and they've seen about 200,000 applicants since he started the organization in February. He said he has no plans on letting the government get involved.

Christine Zito told WTOC she thinks the program is a great idea because she herself is on food stamps and has two dogs. She said it's tough making ends meet while still trying to feed her pups.

Lynn Gensamer with the Humane Society of Greater Savannah is skeptical about the program because of the wait time.

"When you wake up one day and realize you're not going to be able to feed your pet you need a solution quickly," she said.

"I think the idea of providing some expense for pet food is a good idea. I just think it needs to be easier for the pet owner," she added.

She also said she feels as if Pet Food Stamps "demonizes" animal shelters with the slogan on their website that reads "Better fed than dead."

"To suggest if you can't afford food and you have to take your animal to the humane society you're sentencing them to death is simply not true," Gensamer said.

She also urges family to think long and hard about the best interest of the pet if they're in a financial bind, but also, don't be afraid to ask for help.

"Whether it's from your vet, whether it's from where you buy your pet food, humane society."

Another dog owner, Julie Paige, doesn't think pets should suffer if they're owners fall into hard times.

"You got to feed your pets because they're just like children," she said.

Okon couldn't agree more.

"If a mother or father loses their job, should they have to surrender their children?" he argued.

To apply for Pet Food Stamps click here.

To find out more about pet food assistance in the Lowcountry/Coastal Empire click here.

For more information on the Humane Society of Greater Savannah click here

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