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Can You Buy Dog Food with Food Stamps?

For countless individuals, a pet is not just an animal; it’s a cherished member of the family. The love and companionship our furry friends provide, especially in challenging times, are irreplaceable. Given this deep bond, it’s no surprise that many pet owners are determined to ensure their pets receive the best care possible, including a balanced and nutritious diet. This brings us to a frequently asked question: Can you buy dog food with food stamps?

A yellow and black sign that says we accept food stamps.
Photo credit: YayImages.

Understanding SNAP

Before delving into the details, it’s crucial to understand what the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as food stamps, actually is. SNAP is a federal assistance program operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Its primary aim is to help low-income families and individuals purchase food items essential for human consumption nationwide. Every month, eligible participants receive an allotted amount on an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card, which functions much like a debit card.

Can you buy dog food with SNAP?

The list of items that can be purchased using SNAP benefits is extensive. It covers a range of consumables from fresh produce and dairy products to meats and non-alcoholic beverages.

However, the list is explicitly curated for human consumption. Hence, pet food, including dog food, does not fall under SNAP-eligible items.

The rationale behind this is simple: while pets are an invaluable part of many people’s lives, the priority of SNAP is to ensure that humans have access to basic nutrition.

I am not here to argue that if a person has limited means to feed themselves, they shouldn’t have a pet. Pets can be long-time family members, acquired during better financial times. They can also serve as emotional or physical support animals. It is unreasonable to suggest that a change in one’s financial situation should lead to the abandonment of a beloved pet.

At the same time, this program was designed to address human hunger and should be used for the intended purpose.

A bag of dog food on a white background.
Photo credit: YayImages.

Alternatives for pet owners

For those facing financial hardship and wondering how to obtain dog food with no money, the inability to use food stamps for dog food can be a genuine concern. But there’s hope.

Many communities across the U.S. have recognized this challenge and have set up pet food banks or assistance programs to help.

Pet food banks

Just like food banks for humans, several non-profit organizations and shelters offer pet food banks to provide pet food for those in need. These institutions rely on donations and often distribute pet food at no cost to eligible individuals.

It’s important to note that many regional and local organizations might offer similar or even more expansive services. Some recognized organizations that provide or support pet food banking include:

Pet Food Pantry – this is a common name, and many localities have a Pet Food Pantry. They offer free pet food to low-income pet owners, ensuring that pets are cared for despite financial hardships.

Pets of the Homeless – This organization focuses on providing pet food and emergency veterinary care to the pets of homeless individuals across the United States.

Project Street Vet – A 501 (c)(3) non-profit public charity that provides free veterinary care, treatment and support to the pets of individuals experiencing homelessness or housing vulnerability. 

Local human food banks

Some food banks for humans also keep a stock of pet food, understanding that many families consider pets as part of the family.

Feeding America, known as the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, has some local branches that distribute pet food based on community needs and donations received.

Local animal shelters and organizations

Many animal shelters and rescue organizations across the U.S. offer assistance to pet owners in need, including free pet food.

While specific offerings can vary based on location and current resources, here are three shelters that have been known to provide such support:

  • Animal Care Centers of NYC (ACC): Based in New York City, ACC has been known to hold events or drives providing pet food and other necessary supplies to pet owners facing financial hardship.
  • Los Angeles Animal Services (LAAS): Serving the Los Angeles area, LAAS has organized pet food giveaways and has partnerships with local organizations to help provide pet food to those in need.
  • Seattle Animal Shelter: Located in Seattle, Washington, this shelter has initiatives and events that distribute pet food to local residents in need.

It’s essential to reach out directly to these shelters or check their websites for the most up-to-date information on their programs and services. Additionally, many other local animal shelters and rescues across the country offer similar programs, so if you’re not in these areas, it might be beneficial to contact shelters in your region to inquire about available assistance.

A beagle puppy eating out of a pink bowl.
Photo credit: YayImages.

Discounted pet stores

Some stores offer discounts or loyalty programs that can help reduce the cost of pet food over time. One example is Petco, they not only offer coupons but also a reward program which can earn you a free bag of food for every ten purchased. Other examples include PetSmart Treat, Pet Supply Plus and Tractor Supply Neighbor’s Club.

DIY dog food

Making dog food at home can be more economical than store-bought varieties. However, if you choose this route, it’s essential to ensure that the food meets all of your dog’s nutritional needs. Homemade raw dog food is one example. For inexpensive dog treats, offer your dog chicken feet instead of store-bought packaged biscuits. They’re healthier and even come with natural dental benefits!


Some pet food companies offer promotions, samples or coupons for free products to introduce their brand or a new product line. Regularly checking their official websites or signing up for their newsletters can help you get these deals.

Manufacturers like Taste of the Wild offer free samples of their food. Some vets might have samples or overflow of pet food that they’re willing to give away, especially if they’re aware of a pet owner’s financial situation.

In conclusion

While SNAP does not cover dog food, understanding the program’s priorities and limitations can provide clarity on the matter.

For those who find themselves in challenging financial circumstances, community resources can be a lifeline for ensuring that both they and their pets have the sustenance they need. After all, the well-being of our furry friends is a testament to the love and care we provide, regardless of our financial standing.