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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Animal (tax) shelter

Not one, not two, but three readers sent me links to this story, about a proposed income tax deduction for money spent on household pets. It's one of those ideas that you might just laugh about at first, but if you think about it, it makes at least as much sense as some other federal giveaways we've seen lately. Not only would it put money in the hands of American households, but it might also relieve some of the intense pressure that animal shelters feel during hard times. Sure, having a pet is a personal choice, but so is having a child, borrowing money for a house or for college, making gifts to charity, and lots of other activities that the tax system subsidizes. This one's worth more than a dismissive chuckle.

Comments (22)

Except that it would be only for itemizers, the upscale folks who are already enjoying the other deductions you list.

If you want to put money into the hands of people who will spend it immediately and stimulate consumer purchasing power, let's have a moratorium or temporary drop in the payroll tax, the one that every earner pays from the first dollar.

To pay for it, remove the cap on earnings subject to the tax.

How about dumping all deductions? Everyone pays a percentage of their income, no exceptions.

Actually a dismissive chuckle is probably not good enough. How about a derisive guffaw?

Please give me something like this. I have pets but no children. I own a home, pay all taxes on time and in full. I pay health insurance premiums, much of which goes to covering the children of those I work with. I don't mind any of this, but please, throw me a bone here. Our vet bills get rather expensive and I love my pets so I'm always going to pay if I can. I'm paying in and getting very little back in return, relatively speaking. Hook me up with a pet tax credit!

And no doubt the deduction will be doubled if it's a shelter pet, and tripled if spayed or neutered. Don't let any good deed go unrewarded by the tax system, particularly when we are building debt by the trillions. God forbid that we should expect people to be responsible on their own initiative.

Home equity to mortgage debt ratio in Canada where there is no home mortgage interest deduction to reward borrowing is about twice what it is in the US. Lesser leverage softened the impact of the world-wide financial meltdown in Canada, though no doubt some wag will argue that colder weather played a role.

Tax breaks distort choices, and in most cases, increase risk.

The key difference between subsidizing having children and subsidizing keeping pets is that pets very rarely grow up to earn an income and pay taxes to support older generations.

In general, legislators should aim to reduce the number of subsidies doled out through the tax code if we ever hope to have a less byzantine income tax system.

Speaking as the owner of one totally awesome cat and four chickens, I don't want to see any tax break that would encourage more people to own pets. There already are too many irresponsible pet owners, such as those who keep dogs locked up in a house all day and rarely give these dogs the attention they need. And people who get cute little kitties and then dispose of them when they stop being cute or start getting sick. It also would be nice to be able to take a walk in a city park without the danger of stepping in dog poop.

Actually Gil and Anon,

There are also many, many pet owners and animal lovers who clean up after what I have found to be the relatively few irresponsible people. Many times failure to spay/neuter is directly correlated to income, at least that is what studies are showing. I have been thinking about this for years with my tongue partially in cheek, but if you think about it, it makes sense for a government to help people who are mitigating nuisance conditions by spaying neutering and adopting strays. It is actually a public service. One thing I like about the current government is that it seems to be listening to people who really know something about topics instead of only entrenched bureaucrats.

An irony I see with many educated people is that they become dismissive- using the limited information they have-often cliches and soundbites (like the ubiquitous irresponsible pet owner)-instead of really researching a topic or opening their minds to people who have studied it.

This gets my vote for most stupid piece of legislation this year.

By the way Jack, that's a damned funny picture on your NFL pick sidebar.

I can't believe we're not talking about Randy Leonard's armed water patrol yet.

"The key difference between subsidizing having children and subsidizing keeping pets is that pets very rarely grow up to earn an income and pay taxes to support older generations."

Pets also don't become older generations that require support of the young. Chicken/egg.

"There are also many, many pet owners and animal lovers who clean up after what I have found to be the relatively few irresponsible people."

I live across the street from a city park, and the place is an absolute animal toilet. The "many, many" who clean up after the "few" aren't keeping up. Some of the "few" are even too lazy to lead their mutts into the park and instead let them use the parking strip, making getting into the car on these dark mornings something of a crap shoot, if you'll pardon the expression. Yeah, these people deserve a tax break.

The Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind.
I would be OK with this one.

My experience is more with cats than dogs. I know or know of hundreds of people who spay and neuter stray cats using their own resources for both the surgery and feeding, thereby mitigating nuisance conditions. Creating nuisance coniditions on private or public property is actionable. People failing to clean up after their dogs can be cited.

I think a problem in Mutlnomah County and environs is that County Animal Services has been run so poorly and been in bed with animal users for such a long time that it is afraid to deal with the dog doo nuisance problem. Wheeler said he would clean up the place and hasn't done it; it is difficult for me to understand why y'all like the guy so much, but then lots of things about Portland baffle me.

It is really easy to call something stupid when you don't really know the context, but that philosophical bent is also something I don't miss about P-town.

Since we're printing whatever money we need anyway, how about we simply get rid of all personal income taxes for, let's say, 5 years? No more filing, no more calculation of deductions, no more paying people to prepare tax returns, far fewer IRS staffers, no more worries about being audited. No more withholding. Life looks better and better under this plan. It's all imploding anyway, so I'd rather not give any more of my hard-earned cash to the gubmint. NO MORE ENABLING.

The more sensible public policy, considering the costs of animal shelters, poop patrols and small animal bite treatment, is, obviously, a subsidy for euthanizing surplus domestic animals.

Discuss this among yourselves while I run for cover.

Many times failure to spay/neuter is directly correlated to income, at least that is what studies are showing

Which is sad, at least in this area. There are many animal hospitals around here that have extremely discounted spay/neuter programs for just that reason. I have never paid more than $30.

A good idea. Responsible pet ownership provides many benefits for the humans involved.

Not all the benefits of this go to the upper income set. Many people itemize because of their home mortgage and property tax deductions. As Jack noted, we already provide deductions for many personal choices (everything from having a safe deposit box to business travel expenses), so that argument against it certainly falls flat. During tough times like this, the deduction would encourage people to keep their pets and take proper care of them, instead of getting rid of them.

Anyone who thinks this is the dumbest idea that Congress has had hasn't been paying much attention to Congress. This makes more sense than about, oh, 95% of them.

It's too bad to see so many animal haters here, but when times get bad people reveal themselves for what they really are.

I completely agree with Cynthia that "it makes sense for a government to help people who are mitigating nuisance conditions by spaying neutering and adopting strays," although I'm not sure a tax break is the best way to achieve that goal. Direct government subsidies to vets to spay & neuter any pet or stray for free (or at very, very low cost) would be my preferred method. And maybe a pet food bank to help people with the expense of Fido's chow when times get tough, as they are now for so many. It cost me nearly $500 to spay and get shots for two female strays who showed up at my door earlier this year, and that was with a discount coupon obtained through the Oregon Spay/Neuter program. I am lucky to be able to afford that, but there are surely many people who can't.

Can't abide the idea of one more line or compexity in the tax forms. Especially when animals here are royalty, compared to say, Turkey, where abscess-ridden starveling cats and kittens roam unfettered everywhere.

Paid a sizeable vet bill yesterday, and would pay it again not to have to see the tax code get any more complicated.

The President of Illinois Humane sent this link about the animal tax credit last month.


Actually, Charlie O, a rescue dog from IH and the pack leader at my house, is doing a fair amount of writing to push his plan for a rescue animal health care option. So far, not too successfully, but he remains hopeful.

Charlie O was blinded and starved on his former crack addict owner's watch and came to me with costly health issues, as did some of my others, after he spent two years in IH sponsored foster care.

Yes, a tax deduction or credit would help with the rehabilitation costs of rescue animals, thus, Charlie O's (O for his guess who namesake) lobbying effort.

The lowest cost cat spay neuter I am aware of in Portland is for the vets who will take the discount coupons to neuter males for about 33 dollars and females for about 10 dollars more.

Of course there are many rescue groups that get grants to offer less expensive surgeries, especially for events in early Spring like "Spay Day USA". The trouble with the grant money is that it doesn't go far enough and grantors are always presuring groups to seek other funding. Imo, the small groups that conduct grassroots efforts to get spay neuter to some very poor and disabled people deserve the support of their communities. The mainline organizations are not going out of their way to do it.

I like your idea of subsidies to vets, Alice. Vets really should take the lead in the efforts to reduce animal suffering and nuisance conditions without resorting to mass killing. Being involved in animal welfare and legal access for the poor has convinced me of the truth of the scripture that the love of money is the root of evil.

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