A picture of two puppies sharing pet food. (credit: Francois Guillot/AFP/Getty Images)

A picture of two puppies sharing pet food. (credit: Francois Guillot/AFP/Getty Images)

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – There is no question that some individuals and families across North Texas and the nation have had to ‘tighten their belts’ during rough economic times. Now one organization is focused on the pets belonging to those people.

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The non-profit Pet Food Stamps program is looking to help provide food for the pets of low-income families.  Organizers say often the only option for poor pet owners is to abandon their family pet to the ASPCA or a high-kill shelter. “We feel that should not happen and provide free pet food to prevent that decision [high-kill shelter] from happening,” Pet Food Stamps founder Marc Okon explained.

Given that pet owners need to vaccinate their animals and provide other sometimes costly care, petfoodstamps.org is meant to help pick up the slack and help those who are less economically fortunate.

Anyone receiving public assistance through the United States Food Stamp program is prohibited from using the funds to purchase pet food and supplies. “There is zero ability to use food stamp money in any state in the U.S. for any pet food whatsoever, even though you are able to use food stamps for unhealthy things like Coca-Cola (which gets about $4 billion a year from food stamps),” Okon said.

To keep Americans from having to choose between feeding their pets or themselves, dog and cat owners currently receiving public assistance can apply for help. A new, updated petfoodstamps.org website will be operational by the end of the month and Okon says anyone interested can, “Go to our website, petfoodstamps.org, fill out the application, and within six to eight weeks you get a call back. [You] verify that you are receiving public assistance, by getting an award letter of benefits from the state agency providing the benefits.”

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Applicants will also need to provide a photocopy of their state identification and the address on the ID must match the address on the public assistance award letter. “Once all that is verified you then get enrolled to get six months of free home delivery of pet food from petflow.com,” Okon said. “And in six months time if you still need the service you’re able to reapply without a wait for another six months.

According to petfoodstamps.org, there are some 50 million Americans, who currently receive Food Stamps and each year seven million pets are surrendered to shelters because of inability to provide care.

Petfoodstamps.org primarily provides food assistance for dogs and cats, but occasionally supplies bird food as well. The website is also developing a pet and pet owner social network.

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