Can You Buy Dog Food with Food Stamps? (No, But Here’s A Workaround) 

Dogs are just as much a part of the family as humans, and for some people, dogs are the most consistent and affirming family members in their lives. It has been proven countless times that living with animals can improve mental health and well-being, and yet, there is virtually no support for dog owners experiencing financial hardship. 

In some cases, people are forced to choose between keeping their dogs fed and keeping them at home. Sometimes, people will give up their own health and nutrition to buy food for their dogs—that’s how deeply humans love their animals. 

So, this obviously raises the question: Can you buy dog food with EBT or food stamps? What about cat food? Can you buy cat food with EBT cards? 

Can You Buy Dog Food with Food Stamps? 

Unfortunately, you cannot buy dog food (or any pet food) with food stamps or other governmental food assistance programs. This applies to all US states and their individual assistance programs. So, whether you’re asking “can you buy dog food with food stamps in Florida?” or “can you buy dog food with food stamps in Texas?” the answer is always no

So, where does that leave pet owners in financial hardship? What are the options to keep your dog fed, or to get access to pet food if you are already using WIC, EBT, SNAP benefits, or any variety of food stamps? 

Rules for Using Food Stamps for Pet Food

According to the rules created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food stamps can only be used for regular grocery shopping, non-alcoholic beverages, and plants/seeds that will enable you to grow more food for your household. Non-food items—like dog and cat food—are explicitly prohibited along with cleaning supplies and hygiene items. 

Basically, if you can’t eat it, you can’t buy it with food stamps. 

Can You Buy Dog Food with Food Stamps? : dog smelling a bag full of groceries

How To Find Free & Affordable Dog Food 

You shouldn’t have to choose between being fed and keeping your dog fed. If you are experiencing financial hardship, homelessness, or any circumstance stopping you from being able to purchase dog food, you deserve help. Here are a few resources to look into for free or affordable dog food.

TANF Benefits

TANF

Can you get dog food on EBT alone? No, but there is a workaround to be able to add household items to your EBT card. 

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Temporary Assistance for Needy Families—or TANF Benefits—is a program run by the Office of Family Assistance of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. People that qualify for TANF benefits receive monthly grants that can be used for food and non-food items including housing, utilities, and pet food. 

TANF benefits are granted to families with children under 18, or minors living as head of household. Once approved, the money is automatically added to your EBT card and you’ll be able to purchase a wider range of items. 

Here’s The Hack: Prepare Homemade Dog Food

While you cannot use food stamps to buy dog food, you can use an EBT card to purchase eligible food products like meat, fruits, and vegetables, all of which you can use to prepare homemade dog food. This is a great way to get around the restriction and ensure that your furry friend is still getting the nourishment they need. Preparing homemade dog food can also be a fun and rewarding experience, allowing you to tailor your pet’s diet to their specific needs and preferences. Here are some vet-approved dog food recipes you can make at home

Animal Shelters & Rescues

Can You Buy Dog Food with Food Stamps: Shelter give away dog food
Source: LA Animal Services

Many animal shelters offer regular pet food pantry services and pet food distribution programs. Here is a comprehensive directory of pet food banks and shelters offering pet food assistance programs. Some shelters offer assistance to anyone who walks in and asks for help, while others have specific days and organized distribution events. 

If you’re struggling to find resources, try visiting PetHelpFinder.org to search for food pantries, shelters, and other resources for free and affordable dog food near you. 

Veterinary Clinics

Not all veterinarians offer assistance programs for pet owners in need, but many do! Like animal rescues and shelters, vet offices may offer community outreach programs and pet food distribution events. Even if your vet office doesn’t do this, it’s worth reaching out to see if they have any resources to help keep your pup fed. 

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Explore Nonprofits Focused on Unhoused Pet Owners

feeding pets of the homeless: Can You Buy Dog Food with Food Stamps
Source: Feeding Pets of the Homeless

Whether you are experiencing homelessness or are struggling to make ends meet, nonprofits like Feeding Pets of the Homeless are available to help. Find food, supplies, and much more using their resource locator, and connect with assistance programs to help fund veterinary needs, medication, etc. 

Meals on Wheels

If you receive assistance from Meals on Wheels, you can also receive pet assistance including food, grooming services, and even veterinary services. A program run on a sliding scale pay model, some people receiving Meals on Wheels pay full price, but the vast majority are given significant discounts or provided food and resources for free. Learn more on the Meals on Wheels website and see if you qualify for pet food assistance. 


FAQ

Can you buy dog food with food stamps?

No, you cannot use food stamps to buy dog food because it’s considered a non-food item since it’s not for human consumption.

What is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)?

SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, is a program that gives low-income families access to healthy food.

What can you buy with SNAP benefits?

SNAP benefits can be used to purchase eligible food products like meat, fruits, and vegetables.

Can you use an EBT card to buy pet food?

No, an EBT card cannot be used to purchase pet food.

Can you buy pet food with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits?

Yes, if your state issues you with TANF benefits through your EBT card, you may be able to withdraw money from an ATM to buy items like pet food.

Can you use SNAP benefits to prepare homemade dog food?

Yes, you can use an EBT card to purchase eligible food products like meat, fruits, and vegetables, all of which you can use to prepare homemade dog food.

Where can you use SNAP benefits?

SNAP benefits can be used at most grocery stores and other retailers that sell food.

Are there any other resources available for buying pet food?

Yes, animal welfare organizations, pet shelters, and breed-specific groups are all good places to start if you require pet food assistance.

Are there any restrictions on what you can buy with SNAP benefits?

Yes, there are clear rules about what you cannot buy with a SNAP card, including alcohol and tobacco products; vitamins and supplements; and other nonfood items.


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