A donation-based food stamps for pets program has been launched to help families feed their dogs, cats or other animals.

Pet Food Stamps, founded in New York by Marc Okon, was launched to help low-income families offset the costs of feeding their pets. The non-profit program, according to its site, “has been created to fill the void in the United States Food Stamp program which excludes the purchase of pet food and pet supplies. There are over 50 million Americans who currently receive Food Stamps, many with dogs or cats, who simply cannot afford to feed their animals, and these cherished companions are dropped off at animal shelters where they will most likely be put to sleep.”

Pet Food Stamps, through donations and support by patrons, offers free monthly delivery of pet food for families that qualify for the program via PetFoodDirect.com. Families on food stamps or are in a low-income bracket are eligible for the program and Pet Food Stamps is open to all residents of the United States.

The non-profit organization also hopes to supply free or deeply discounted veterinary care by the fourth quarter of 2013 if Pet Food Stamps continues to grow and expand. The program has already had an enthusiastic response, signing up more than 45,000 pets in just two weeks, notes ABC News. Okon, speaking to ABCNews.com, said it will continue to rely on donations and patron support and will not seek government aid at present. Pet Food Stamps join other groups who provide pet food banks, free clinics that spay and neuter or provide free or discounted vaccinations.

Pet Food Stamps will help families care for their pets while easing the burden on already overcrowded shelters. While there are many no-kill shelters, there are still too many pets that are not adopted and food stamps for pets could help families keep the animals they love. Speaking about the state of shelters, Dr. Beth Vesco-Mock, director of the Animal Services Center of the Mesilla Valley in New Mexico, told KVIA, “In the last four years, we here at the animal services center have taken over 56,000 animals. That's one-fourth of the population here in Doña Ana County we've taken in in animals.”