Can You Buy Dog Food With Food Stamps? (+ Two Alternatives)

Assistance programs like food stamps (also sometimes called SNAP or EBT) are designed to help individuals and families purchase food. People on a fixed income may sometimes struggle to provide for their furry family members, too. So, can you buy dog food with food stamps?

Food stamps can only be used to buy food intended for human consumption. That means you can’t use food stamps to buy dog food. But for people in need, there are some alternatives for getting help to feed your four-legged friend. Non-Profit organizations, shelters, or other assistance may be available.

Can You Buy Pet Food With EBT Food Stamps? 

Food stamps are provided through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides benefits for low-income individuals to buy food. 

The only thing you can buy with SNAP benefits are food items for human household members. That means you cannot purchase dog food, cat foot, bird seed, or any other pet foods with food stamps. 

The rules for what you can and can’t buy with SNAP benefits are mandated through the federal government (USDA), in addition to any restrictions placed by your state. Food stamps can only be used to buy food for humans living in your home. 

However, we may have two possible solutions for you, so Read On.

What Can You Buy With Food Stamps?

SNAP benefits (food stamps) are for buying food items for you and your family. Even though most of us consider our pets to be part of our family, government assistance programs typically do not see it that way. 

Some examples of items you can buy with food stamps include:

  • Meat, poultry, and fish
  • Dairy products like milk, eggs, yogurt, and cheese
  • Fresh, canned, and dried fruits
  • Fresh, canned, and frozen vegetables
  • Breads and rolls
  • Cereals and breakfast foods
  • Grain items like rice and oats
  • Snack foods like chips, crackers, and peanuts 
  • Non-alcoholic beverages like juice, soda, and water
  • Desserts like cookies and cakes 
  • Seeds and plants to grow food for your household

Pretty much anything non-taxable from your local supermarket will be eligible for food stamps. And some items that are taxable like soda, ice cream, and candy bars are also eligible for you to purchase with SNAP benefits. 

Can I Buy Dog Food With TANF Benefits? 

If you’re eligible to receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits, you may be able to purchase dog food using your EBT card. The income threshold for TANF benefits is very low. And it also requires that you have a child in the household (or are pregnant). 

With TANF benefits, you can withdraw cash from your EBT card at any participating ATM. Then, you can use that money to purchase pet food or anything else you need. 

How Do I Get Dog Food With No Money? 

If you don’t have money to purchase pet food, it can be very distressing. It’s even more frustrating when you have plenty of money available on your EBT card and can’t use it to buy dog food.

Luckily, there are some other options out there to help pet owners keep their animals fed during troubled times. 

  • The Humane Society is dedicated to helping all animals, and they have an extensive network of agencies to help you find assistance
  • Feeding Pets of the Homeless has partners all over the country to help you get supplies for yourself and your pet. 
  • Local Shelters may provide assistance in the form of donated pet foods. Some shelters have pet food pantries for low-income owners. 
  • Vet Clinics may provide pet food assistance along with free or reduced vaccinations or spay and neuter programs. If you have a vet it never hurts to ask. 
  • Samples from Manufacturers are available upon request in many cases. While it’s not an instant solution, it could help you get a supply of back-up pet food in case of an emergency.
  • Breed-Specific Organizations: These groups are focused on the care and wellbeing of specific animal breeds. A quick web search should help you find out if there are any in your area, or you can check on the American Kennel Club’s website. 
  • Facebook Marketplace and Other Online Forums: You may be able to find someone giving away (or selling cheaply) pet food they no longer need. If you belong to an online community, you could always post your needs and see if anyone is willing to help. You might be surprised by how many people are eager to assist a furry friend in need. 

Make Your Own Dog Food Using Food Stamps

If you can’t use your food stamps to buy pet food you may be wondering, “now what?” Another option is to use your EBT card to purchase human food items that are suitable for your dog. 

If you take this route, you should be very careful to research what kinds of things your dog can and can’t eat. For example, foods like grapes, onions, and chocolate can be very dangerous or deadly for a canine. Chicken bones may cause choking or internal damage to their digestive system. 

Feeding your dog the wrong food can cause you to end up with an expensive vet bill or worse, so always take the time to do a little research  ahead of time. 

Here are some examples of items you can buy with your EBT card that my be good for making dog food: 

  • High-quality proteins like boneless chicken, salmon, ground beef, or ground turkey
  • Eggs
  • Whole grains like brown rice or oats
  • Calcium-containing dairy products like yogurt or cottage cheese
  • Vegetables like spinach, kale, carrots, and peas

Be sure to check with your vet or another trusted resource to ensure your pet’s dietary needs are being met. However, preparing some wholesome ingredients on a temporary basis can be a great way to keep your dog healthy and happy. 

Pet Food Assistance By State

Depending on where you live, there may be some local agencies or other organizations that can help you get the supplies you need for your dog or other pet. 

Here’s a list of some organizations with pet food pantries or assistance programs that may be able to help in your state:

AlabamaHuntsville Animal ServicesThe Alabama Animal Alliance Spay/Neuter Clinic
AlaskaThe Roscoe Fund
ArizonaEmpty Bowl Pet Food PantryLost Our Home Pet Foundation
ArkansasRanger’s PantryHumane Society of Faulkner County
CaliforniaPATH – Making it Home                   Orange County SPCABark Avenue Foundation                 PRC on Skid RowHumane Society of Alameda           FACE FoundationCaptain Care                             Animal Welfare Assistance GroupThe Acme Foundation            PAWS San Diego County        
ColoradoHarley’s Hope FoundationThe Street Dog CoalitionPeace, Love and Paws, Inc.
ConnecticutConnecticut Humane SocietySTARelief Pet Assistance
DelawareDelaware Humane Society
District of ColumbiaHumane Rescue Alliance
FloridaSt. Francis House Pet Care ClinicFrankie’s Friends
GeorgiaAction MinistriesADREAM – Keita’s Kitchen Pet Food PantryCoco’s Cupboard, Inc.Humane Society of Northwest Georgia
HawaiiHawaii Humane Society
IdahoNomadic Critters (Boise)
IllinoisThe Anti-Cruelty Society
IndianaSOAR Initiative 
IowaAnimal Rescue League of Iowa
KansasInter-Faith Ministries
KentuckyKentucky Humane Society
LouisianaLouisiana Pet Food Bank
MaineDiabetic Cats in Need
MarylandMaryland SPCA
MassachusettsPawsitive PantryKane’s Krusade, Inc.
MichiganMichigan Humane Society
MinnesotaMN SNAP
MississippiHumane Society of South Mississippi
MissouriMissouri Coalition of Animal Care
MontanaHumane Society of Western Montana
NebraskaTia’s Place (Auburn)
NevadaCarson Valley Community Food ClosetDAWG Community AssistanceStreet DogzUrban UnderdogsShakespeare Animal FundSPCA of Northern Nevada (Reno)
New HampshireMonadnock Humane Society
New JerseyHomeward Bound
New MexicoHeading Home
New YorkRescue Pit, Inc. 
North CarolinaPet Food Pantry of Eastern North CarolinaSafe Haven for Cats
North DakotaFargo Area Pet Pantry
OhioFaithful Forgotten Best Friends
OklahomaPause4Paws, Inc. 
OregonTail Waggers RescueThe Street Dog ProjectNo Pet Left Behind
PennsylvaniaSUN PETS
Rhode IslandCAWS – Companion Animal Welfare Society
South CarolinaDorchester PawsPawmetto Lifeline
South DakotaSioux Falls Area Humane Society
TennesseeBrown Dog FoundationThe Savior Foundation
TexasHouston SPCA
UtahStreet Dawg Crew of Utah
VermontHelp-a-PetPawsitive PantryLucy’s House (Essex Junction)
VirginiaRCACP Pet Food PantryVirginia Beach SPCAPeninsula Pet Pantry
WashingtonBecks PlaceRainier Animal FundThe Goochy Project
West VirginiaPeppy’s Pet PantryAnimal Welfare Society
WisconsinWisCARES Pet Clinic
WyomingVCA Wyoming Animal HospitalBlack Dog Animal Rescue

The Bottom Line

If you’re struggling to make ends meet, it can be very stressful to come up with the cash to buy dog food on top of everything else. Still, you’re probably attached to your four-legged friend and what to make sure he’s taken care of, too. 

While you can’t use food stamps (SNAP) to purchase dog food, there are a lot of alternatives to get assistance. For example, you can visit a local pet food pantry, check with your local humane society, or ask your vet if there are any options they know of. 

If push comes to shove, you can use your EBT card to buy human foods that you can prepare for your dog. You just have to be careful to only use foods that are safe for dogs to eat, so be sure to do some research ahead of time. 

With a little planning, you’ll be able to keep yourself and your dog fed, healthy, and happy.