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Disabled Pennsylvania man's service dog not eligible for food stamp benefits, court rules

Alpo Food stamps won't be helping a disabled man fill his service dog's food bowl.

James Douris lost a key court decision Tuesday in his yearlong effort to qualify his male boxer, who is fed everything Douris eats, as a dependent member of his household in calculating food stamp benefits.

A three-judge Commonwealth Court panel upheld an earlier Department of Public Welfare's determination that the dog was ineligible because he is not human.

"This court is sympathetic to [Douris'] argument that his service dog is a necessity for him due to his disability, and that he lacks the funds to properly feed his service dog," wrote Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer. "We hope that there is some other state or federal program that might provide for the maintenance and upkeep of [the] dog."

Douris, 55, a resident of Newtown in the Philadelphia suburbs, is a disabled and unemployed veteran who lives alone and relies on the dog to pull his wheelchair and fetch items. Although Douris has represented himself in the legal proceedings, he said Tuesday that news of his case prompted lawyers to offer their help, and he plans to appeal the decision.

"This is a mistake on the part of the court and also the welfare board," said Douris, who cited security concerns in deciding not to disclose the dog's name. "My phone's been ringing off the hook."

He appealed a Bucks County Assistance Office decision to grant him $176 a month in food stamps in February 2009, saying the amount was insufficient to feed himself and the dog. Douris later testified that he feeds the animal dog food as well as "meat, poultry, vegetables and everything [he] eats," according to Jubelirer's written opinion.

The dog requires supplemental nutrition because of its work for him, Douris said.

Extending benefits to the dog would fundamentally change the food stamp program, Jubelirer wrote. He rejected Douris' argument that the denial of food stamps to the dog would effectively kill the animal and therefore constitute an act of criminal animal cruelty.

Douris said Tuesday the dog has not been starving and that he would not let that happen.

Department of Public Welfare spokesman Mike Race said the agency was sympathetic to Douris but pleased that the court ruled in its favor.

"As the court noted, federal law is ’'unambiguously clear' that food stamp benefits are intended for humans only," Race said.

-- Associated Press

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Photo: Dog food on supermarket shelves. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (9)

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If the dog is doing the JOB of a HUMAN carer, it should at least be given some benefits.
Saying that Food Stamps are only for the use of humans is ludicrous if we are expecting animals to do the work for us.....

That dog works harder and contributes more to society than most people on food stamps.

Who is to say the dog does anything other than being a pet? You can not have the State and the Fed. start giving out food stamps to dogs that may or may not help there owners, If this should go through what is next Man wanting to marry Man and having equal rights and tax benifits, Why the President himself or the leaders of Congress might try to push through HealthCare for every American, Why the left in this Country would try to pass every poppycock idea they could come up with. The deficit would reach heights of 12-14 trillion dollars.... Ohhhh wait..... never mind... give the dog some alpo.

Just feed the the dog people food it's better for the dog.

They give illegals welfare but they can't give a service dog, food stamps.

Is there someplace we can get information so we can send this man some dog food? If the dog is doing a service it should at least not starve or be malnourished. That's just cruel to an animal that's doing something. My heart goes out to him.. good for him for trying to do the right thing.

It is good to see that someone has common sense. Thank you #9 REK. In my practice, I work with indigent individuals who battle just to get the minimum necessities in life including food stamps. The amount of food the stamps allow for many provides only for the bare minimum. The bureaucracy is there to protect the bureaucracy (Ronald Reagan). #1 should return to class. If the person is disabled, it is highly unlikely he has any income to take tax deductions against. Try to learn how to make the tax system work for those much less fortunate than you for someday you may be down on your luck and need assistance. Work at finding a methodology that assists those in greatest need.

It is sad that in a country with such great wealth, a citizen who cannot afford dog food for his necessity service animal, is forced through the tedious process of suing in an attempt to survive. I too am an animal lover and my dog who comes to work with me every day is sitting under my desk as I write this.

Instead of complaining about the system, I telephoned the MSPCA here in Massachusetts. They are looking into what programs are available to provide this individual’s dog with food and perhaps other basic necessities such as veterinary care. Rather than commenting on this situation and how much it displeases you (as it should), please make calls to your local pet suppliers or other organizations to assist this person and others similarly situated.


Of course Los Angeles is an immense area compared to where I live, but our local Humane Society gives out dog food for the needy.

Ran across this link which might help


This might be a long shot, but if there are any animal rescue groups in the area, they might be able to give a little help with food.

Always be a bit cautious as some animal rescue organizations try to get you to sign over your animal to them.

What you can do with food stamps is check out some online recipes for dog kibble and treats, as these ingredients can most certainly be purchased with food stamps.

Perhaps he has family, friends, and neighbors that can help him out. There's also local charities and churches that can help him out as well. I feel sorry for the guy, but like the court said, food stamps are for humans; not for animals.

Oh by the way, I too am a Philadelphia area native and resident.


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