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Can You Buy Dog Food With EBT? Understanding SNAP Benefits Eligibility

Written by: Robert Taylor
Last updated: January 30, 2024

The Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) system and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are designed to assist low-income families in purchasing food, but only for human consumption.[1]


SNAP benefits typically do not cover the cost of dog food as it is not considered an item for human consumption.


Some states have unique rules regarding the use of EBT for pet-related expenses. For instance, Wisconsin allows the purchase of certain animal food items, while Pennsylvania permits the use of EBT for some non-food animal supplies.


Pet owners on a budget can explore discounted pet food programs, make homemade dog food, or buy in bulk as cost-saving strategies.


Free pet food is often accessible through local animal shelters, pet food banks, or charitable organizations, especially for those facing financial difficulties.[2]

Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT), part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), offers financial support for eligible individuals and families to purchase food items. However, the question often arises: Can you buy dog food with EBT? 

This article delves deep into the intricacies of SNAP benefits eligibility, particularly focusing on purchasing dog food.

Can You Buy Dog Food With EBT?

Pet food does not fall within SNAP-eligible items because it is not for human consumption. Individuals may sometimes mistakenly believe they can use their benefits for dog food due to the primary function of SNAP being to assist in purchasing food products; however, the program's focus is on food intended for the cardholder's household.[1]

Alternative Approaches For Dog Food

Despite this restriction, there are alternative approaches for pet owners on a limited budget. They can explore discounted pet food programs, make homemade dog food, or consider buying in bulk as a cost-saving strategy. Pet owners can also obtain free pet food through various sources such as community animal shelters, dedicated pet food banks, or non-profit organizations focused on animal welfare.[2] These options allow individuals to maintain quality pet nutrition without using SNAP benefits.

Fast Facts

Organizations like The Humane Society and Red Rover provide comprehensive directories and financial assistance specifically for pet owners.

State-Specific EBT Regulations

Regulations can vary by state when purchasing dog food with an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is what EBT cards are most commonly used for, specifically disallows the purchase of pet food. However, certain states provide workarounds or separate programs that can assist pet owners.

  • Wisconsin: In Wisconsin, individuals can use EBT benefits at approved grocery stores or farmers' markets for items labeled as "intended for animal or wild bird consumption." This includes some pet food items.
  • Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania permits the use of EBT cards for cat litter and other types of animal supplies, suggesting some flexibility in non-food item purchases.
StateAllows Pet Food Purchase with EBTAdditional Notes
WisconsinYesAt approved stores and farmers' markets
PennsylvaniaLimitedIncludes some animal supplies

It is important for EBT cardholders to verify their state's specific guidelines before attempting to purchase pet food with their benefits. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How to apply for assistance programs aimed at pet owners?

Individuals seeking assistance programs for pet owners should contact local animal shelters and organizations dedicated to pet welfare. These entities often have resources or can direct pet owners to the relevant programs.

Are there any online retailers where SNAP benefits can be used for pet supplies?

Generally, SNAP benefits cannot be used to purchase pet supplies, including at online retailers. However, this may vary if the online retailer carries products that are eligible under SNAP's definition of food for humans.

What statewide policies exist regarding the purchase of pet food with government assistance programs?

Statewide policies may differ, and some states allow the purchase of pet food with EBT benefits for service animals. Checking with the specific state's policies or SNAP office is essential for up-to-date information.

How can individuals in need obtain free pet food?

Individuals in need can often obtain free pet food through local animal shelters, pet food banks, or charitable organizations that may offer assistance to pet owners facing financial hardships.

Does the eligibility for buying pet supplies differ with SNAP benefits from one state to another?

Eligibility for buying pet supplies with SNAP benefits can differ between states, particularly with regard to service animals. The situation may require a case-by-case examination, as certain allowances are provided for service animals.

Understanding EBT Limitations For Dog Food

Navigating the intricacies of SNAP benefits and EBT when purchasing dog food can be challenging. While SNAP's primary focus is to support human nutritional needs, exploring state-specific regulations and alternative strategies offers a beacon of hope for pet owners. It's imperative for individuals using EBT to remain informed about their state's policies and explore the various available avenues to ensure their pets' well-being. By understanding these guidelines and leveraging alternative resources, pet owners can adequately provide for their furry companions while complying with SNAP's intended purpose.

If you need pet assistance, our guide on pet assistance for low-income families near you. Learn more by visiting Gov Relations and exploring our comprehensive resources.

Robert Taylor
Robert Taylor is a talented writer known for his ability to communicate complex social care and government benefit topics with clarity and empathy. With a background in sociology and a passion for advocating for marginalized populations, Robert has authored numerous articles, reports, and books on these critical subjects. His writing has helped individuals better understand their rights and options within the realm of government assistance, empowering them to navigate the system effectively. Robert's compelling storytelling and dedication to social justice have made him an influential voice in the field of social care and government benefits.

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