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Non-Profit Provides Food Stamps for Pets

Pet Food Stamps, a New York-based nonprofit that will give qualifying pet owners throughout the U.S. (who must be receiving government assistance for themselves) funds to buy food for their animals from the website PetFoodDirect. Applications can be filled out here on the –> Pet Food Stamps website

WSJ: If you believe the economy is improving, you’ve likely never met someone who still can’t afford a can of cat food.

Marc Okon, who has worked as a stockbroker, entrepreneur and business consultant, has a friend from his old neighborhood in Bayside, Queens, N.Y. He’s known her since age 10. Her parents died. She fell on hard times. And the economy hasn’t come back for her yet.

"She told me she sometimes fed her cat before herself," Mr. Okon said in a telephone interview.

In February, as headlines raged about a strengthening economy, Mr. Okon started a privately funded nonprofit called Pet Food Stamps. People who are already on government assistance can apply for free pet food.

The group has been swamped with more applications than his staff of a dozen people can readily process. Most applicants send letters detailing how they lost their jobs to outsourcing, their homes to foreclosure or their health to disease or accident.

"I just heard from a lady in North Carolina who has an autistic son whose only companion is a Jack Russell Terrier," he said. "It’s cookie-cutter sadness. … Little details change but the gist of each story is the same."

Despite nominal improvements in the unemployment rate, the U.S. Department of Agriculture counts more than 47 million people in its food stamp program—nearly one out of every seven Americans.

Food stamps cannot be used to purchase pet food. But they can be used to buy Coca-Cola.

Last week, the National Center for Public Research complained at Coca-Cola’s annual shareholder meeting in Atlanta that the beverage maker lobbies heavily to keep soda on the list of wholesome things that food stamps can buy.

Taxpayers subsidize about $4 billion worth of soda sales each year, the group groused, even as the sugary drink contributes to an obesity epidemic that drives up government health-care costs.

But you know what they say? Food stamps go better with Coke.

Mr. Okon, 36 years old, said he spent his 20s chasing money, first as a stockbroker, then as the founder of a company that sold pay phones as cellphones displaced them. He also did consulting work that took him into the bowels of many other companies.

He said he briefly worked for a firm that sold dubious medical benefits to seniors in the South. "Their whole corporate philosophy was to manipulate seniors who didn’t have any type of insurance," he said. "I could only do that for about a week and half."

He is a man so disgusted with the lack of ethics he witnessed in private enterprise that he founded a nonprofit to hand out dog food.

"I’ve been around enough shady businesses and surrounded by salesmen-types who were always talking about the deal," he said.

Self-dealing helped destroy the economy—so focused on the bottom line and so unfocused on consequences for everyone else. Dogs and cats don’t know what hit them.

"Millions of pets are surrendered to shelters each year and euthanized because their owners can’t afford to feed them," Mr. Okun said.

And to top it all off, the people in charge of fixing the economy are the same ones who helped destroy it.

"The people in power were put there by fat cats, who have money and control," Mr. Okun said. "I see it getting worse and worse, decade after decade. I don’t know what’s going to change."

See CBS News Video: Non-Profit Provides Food Stamps for Pets

(CBS News) SALEM, Ore. – Tough economic times in recent years have led to heartbreaking decisions for many pet owners. But now, there may be more help on the way.

Marissa Jenkins’ 6-year-old Dachshund, Olivia, is more than a dog.

Marissa Jenkins is thankful for an organization that helps feed her dog.

Marissa Jenkins is thankful for an organization that helps feed her dog.

"She’s been part of our family, she’s definitely not a dog," Jenkins said. "She’s a kid to us."

Recently, the Salem, Ore., family welcomed a new addition – and a new challenge.

"My husband lost his job in February and we just had a baby in December, and so all the costs of having a baby and a dog and a family is adding up," she said.

Now on food stamps, they turned to a non-profit for help to feed their dog because food stamps cannot be used for pet food.

Launched in February, Pet Food Stamps has received over to 160,000 applications from needy families across the country. Marc Okon is the charity’s founder.

"Hundreds of thousands of pets a year are put to sleep, simply because the owners can’t feed them," Okon said.

Okon says dog and cat owners on public assistance are eligible. He’s partnered with a company called Pet Flow to provide free delivery.

" It was a relief for us that we were able to get some help for our dog and because we couldn’t provide for her, somebody else could," Jenkins said, wiping away tears.

While Marissa is grateful for the free pet food, there’s an even more valuable benefit.

"We wanted our child to be able to grow up with animals and our dog is really great with her," she said.

Once back on their feet, the Jenkins say they will donate to the program to help other families in need.

Related:

Pet Food Stamps

Struggling families can now apply for nonprofit’s Pet Food Stamps

Homeless Shelters that Allow Pets

How to Help Pets of Homeless People

A Patchwork of Food Assistance for Pets

Help Feed Hungry Pets

Humane Society list of pet financial aid-related organizations

No-No Foods for Pets

Homeless With Pets – Choosing Pets Over Shelter

“One can understand a society by how it treats the weakest among them… the sick, the elderly, the children and the animals!”

**If you can donate or perhaps work with this program, Pet Food Stamps, to help all families in need feed their pets, please do so.

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May 3, 2013 Posted by | Adopt Just One More Pet, Animal or Pet Related Stories, Dogs, Dogs, Help Familie Keep Their Pets, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, Pet Nutrition, Pets | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Social Entrepreneur Helps Homeless Dogs

A restaurateur develops a line of clothing to help control the pet population

You can hear in Shane O’Neill’s voice how much he loves dogs when he talks about the eight he has owned–especially the 10-year-old American bulldogMan and Best Friend: Shane O'Neill and TugnutT. he has now, who has cancer. So he was bothered by a statistic about the massive numbers of pets euthanized each year: between 3 million and 4 million, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

O’Neill, a partner in the Saddle Ranch Chop House (an 18,000-square-foot restaurant complete with mechanical bulls) at Universal Studios in Universal City, Calif., decided to use his entrepreneurial expertise to do something about it. In November, he launched Royal Bitch Couture, a clothing company based in Brentwood, Calif., to help homeless dogs by donating 50 percent of its profits to organizations around the country that spay and neuter animals.

Philanthropy was in O’Neill’s blood. He had helped expand his family’s Columbus, Ohio, market and catering company, Shane’s Gourmet Catering, which he says is one of the largest donors to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus.

Although he had never launched a clothing line, O’Neill envisioned creating a soft, casual collection of women’s clothing that was flattering and easy to wear. He worked with friends who are professional stylists to design the line of form-fitting cotton T-shirts, French loop terry hoodies, short shorts, low-rise sweat pants and casual dresses.

By the Numbers
Number of independent animal shelters in the U.S.: About 5,000
Average number of litters a fertile dog produces: One per year
Average percentage of shelter animals that are spayed or neutered: 10

Each piece is manufactured in the United States (specifically, Los Angeles) and has a tag that reads, "Helping P.E.T.S," an acronym for "Prevent Euthanasia Through Spaying," to promote the cause.

According to O’Neill, two Brentwood boutiques snapped up the clothes within weeks, and there has been steady demand from other retailers who want to see the line. Royal Bitch also launched a website in December.

Those stylist friends who helped design the line have plans to get the clothing onto celebrity bodies–a great form of promo for any brand. Emma Baker, Miss California Teen 2010, did a photo shoot to promote the line last year.

Based on initial sales and his projections, O’Neill expects that he will donate nearly $50,000 to various shelters and spay and neuter organizations this year.

"That will depend on how well the line rolls out, but we’ve got everything in place and are working hard to make a difference," he says. "People are attracted to the clothing line and to the cause. It’s a great combination."

This article was originally published in the March 2011 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Going to the Dogs.

Man and Best Friend: Shane O’Neill and Tugnutt – Photo © Jeff Clark

September 2, 2012 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, animals, Dogs, Dogs, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, NO KILL NATION, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, Pets, responsible pet ownership, Stop Euthenization | , , , , | 1 Comment

Meet the 2008 ASPCA Dog of the Year

Meet the 2008 ASPCA Dog of the Year Ten-year-old Cole Massie of Los Angeles, CA, may live with cerebral palsy, but he has all the support a kid could want, thanks to a very special black Lab/golden retriever mix named Ilia.

Recently crowned ASPCA Dog of the Year as part of the 2008 Humane Awards program, Ilia performs service duties like bringing items to Cole in his wheelchair and opening and closing doors. But the pooch also has that special healing touch that can’t be taught. “He provides amazing incentive to Cole during therapies, doctor’s appointments and procedures,” says Cole’s mom, Michelle Massie. “He calms, inspires and motivates my son far better than anyone ever has.”

Or, as Cole sums it up: “I like when he lies next to me in bed at night and we listen to Harry Potter on CD, and that he helps to clean me when I’m in the bath by licking my face and arms. He’s my furry brother and best friend—and a serious bed hog!

This past July, three years after boy and dog were paired by the nonprofit Canine Companions for Independence, Cole was faced with a difficult, but life-changing surgery. “He had walked on his toes, and his feet were totally rolled in,” says Massie. “The operation would allow him to use his feet and free him of the wheelchair.” “Cole was frightened by the idea of surgery at first,” remembers Massie. “We explained how much more independent he’d be afterward, but he wasn’t buying it. Finally, we told him that if he had this procedure, there was a very good chance he’d be able to walk Ilia on his own—with no parents and no walker.” After that, says Massie,

“Cole would stroke the dog’s head in bed each night and whisper, ‘I will walk you, Ilia. I will walk you.'” After much coaxing, Cole underwent the surgery in Summit, NJ, and Ilia traveled more than 7,000 miles to be by the boy’s side.

The ten-year-old is now on his way to becoming an independent walker—and his dedicated service dog will be with him every step. The entire family will attend the ASPCA Humane Awards Luncheon in New York City this October 30, where Ilia will be honored along with seven other extraordinary animals and people.

P.S. We’d like to remind you, pet lovers, that even heroes have their quirks. As Massie reveals, “Ilia knows 46 commands, but he won’t fetch!”

September 27, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment