Is it time to extend food stamps to pets?

It seems there is an entire class of potential government dependents which we have somehow overlooked. Tuesday the Washington Post published a story titled, “The surprising argument for extending food stamps to pets.” A man named Edward B. Johnston has launched a petition to get the government to change the rules controlling food stamps so that the money can be used to purchase pet food as well:

The petition has little chance of succeeding, experts say, given the political and logistical challenges of changing food stamps, otherwise known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. But it has attracted the attention of nearly 80,000 signers on the popular petition site Care2, as well as a number of animal welfare organizations.

These groups say that allowing food stamps to be used for pet food could potentially keep tens of thousands of animals out of shelters and prevent low-income people from cutting their pets’ meals.

“It’s potentially game-changing,” said Matt Bershadker, the president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. “I think we should get behind this in a big way.”

Advocates say a food-stamp program that includes pet food would address a little-discussed gap in the social safety net: Currently, there is no federal program that helps low-income people care for their pets.

The article goes on to say that 14% of pet-owning households are at the poverty line which makes it difficult for them to cover things like food and also veterinary bills. I’m actually surprised no one is demanding pets be allowed to purchase subsidized Obamacare plans. It really makes just as much sense. I mean, Sweet Christmas! How have we allowed this massive gap in the social safety net to go on for this long? It’s almost as if we designed the entire system just for people.

What really worries me about this idea is that it could become quite popular. There are a lot of people out there who really love their pets and who also have no understanding of how the government collects money and funds programs. If Bernie Sanders had added free kibble to his list of policy proposals he might have won the Democratic primary. After all, can’t we just add a little bit bigger tax on the millionaires and billionaires he’s always talking about to make sure Fluffy and Spot are taken care of too?

It’s really hard to stop being snarky about this one but if you take it seriously for a minute there are lots of questions that need to be answered. Do we need to grant extra SNAP money to people who have bigger pets? After all, a box of hamster chow could last a long time but someone with a 90-pound Rottweiler is going to need more help. What happens when the neighborhood cat lady spends 100% of her food stamp budget on Mr. Kibbles and his friends? Should we allow that to happen? What if people without switch to a diet of Fancy Feast because it’s cheaper than human food? Do we want the government to subsidize that activity?

This seems like a perfect job for private charity. The Post points out there are already pet food banks in many cities. That’s where it should stay. Taking care of people’s pets is no a function of the federal government and never should be. We’re already 20 trillion dollars in debt and that’s going up this year and next. This should be an easy line to draw.