Pet food stamp program aims to keep families together

In times of economic difficulty, sometimes pet owners have to make a heartbreaking choice: feed themselves or feed their pets.

This is what leads to animals being surrendered to an uncertain fate at shelters.

Now, hope for those facing tough times.

A new national nonprofit has formed to distributed pet food stamps to low-income pet owners and help ease the burden for overcrowded shelters. Any type of house pet is accepted into the food stamp program.

New York-based Pet Food Stamps is already getting 3,000 requests per day and more than 45,000 pets have signed up in the past two weeks, according to news reports. With some 50 million Americans are currently receiving food stamps.

Here's how it works: The program does not dole out cash but rather once need and income is verified, the families get pet food each month from pet food retailer Pet Food Direct for a six-month period. It is supported by private donations.

It's not the only outfit out there trying to help struggling pet owners. Many local shelters offer pet food banks as well. But as one shelter operator put it, their limited food supplies are for one-time dire situations. Having a place low-income pet owners can turn to for food supplies over a longer period of time will help local shelters.