JoAnna Lou
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Tax Break for Pets
Rep. McCotter introduces HAPPY to encourage responsible pet care.

Earlier this month, Michigan Congressman Thaddeus McCotter introduced HR3501, a bill more commonly referred to as HAPPY, the Humanity and Pets Partnered Through the Years Act. The new bill proposes a change to U.S. Tax Code that would allow pet care up to $3,500 to be tax deductable.

Qualifying expenses include veterinary care, but won’t include the cost to acquire a new pet. The deduction is exclusive to legally owned, domestic animals. Animals used for research or owned in conjunction with a business do not qualify.

HAPPY was drafted to encourage responsible pet care and reduce the abandonment of pets by people struggling as a result of the economic downturn. The bill also mentions that 63 percent of U.S. households include a pet and that the human-animal bond has been shown to have positive effects upon people’s emotional and physical well being.

I don’t currently itemize my taxes, but if I could deduct pet care, it might become worth it for me to change the way I file. I’m not convinced that HAPPY will help reduce the number of abandoned dogs, but I do think it has the potential to encourage responsible pet care. It also legitimizes animals as a member of the family since we can currently deduct for human health care and education. However, if HAPPY passes, I would hope that no one would buy a pet because of the potential tax benefit (which isn't much compared to the cost of caring for an animal).

HAPPY is curently waiting to be reviewed by the House Committee on Ways and Means, so it will be interesting to see the outcome, although I'm not particularly optimistic it will pass. If you’re interested in supporting HAPPY, a petition has been set up on the Care 2 Petition Site. To view text from the actual bill, visit the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council's website.

What do you think about tax deductable pet care?

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.
CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by Dawn A. Marcus, MD | August 18 2009 |

I love my dogs as well as the next guy, but when the country's struggling to pay for zillions of dollars in new programs, you've got to be kidding me! If you visit FitAsFIdo.com, you'll know that I couldn't be more convinced that the human-canine bond is special, health-promoting, and to be encouraged, but a tax deduction??? I'd like to see the whole tax system simplified with a consumption tax to get away with the already overly-confusing tax laws!

Submitted by Debbie Gaj | August 29 2009 |

Dogs are a necessity in my life, but they are my choice to have. Over the years I have had to sacrifice financially to take care of their needs, but the government should have nothing to do with that. Perhaps a one time tax credit for adopting a special needs shelter dog, or a credit given to senior pet owners on a fixed income would be worth considering, but an across the board write off for having a pet when the country has such a teetering economy is pretty frivolous. We need to take responsibility for the choices we make when we bring a living creature into our homes and our lives.

Submitted by michelle | September 4 2009 |

Yes, pets are a choice-and so are children, but if you have them, you can end up with thousands more back in taxes then you paid in, thanks to generous tax breaks. I think the proposed bill is the least the government can do for those of us that have pets.

Submitted by Chris | October 15 2009 |

I would agree with people, that owning a pet is a choice, yes...but if that pet is full of different issues, like cancers, or tumors, or hip problems, or any other issues, that isn't a choice. Pet's can help humans cope with so much because they don't judge, they don't talk back, but what they will do is love you unconditionally as long as you give them a good life. I want this bill to pass.

Submitted by Euri, the Dog | August 19 2009 |

It's about time. Dogs are like children and they, too, should be entitled to a tax deduction.

Submitted by Wendy | August 20 2009 |

I love my dog, she's my baby. She goes everywhere I go, we share a bed, I lavish her with tasty treats & "premium" dog food, grooming, excellent vet care and we even share the occational ice cream cone or sundae. When she goes to stay with my parents for a week each fall to hunt with my dad, I miss her terribly and call my mom to ask how she is doing. Despite all of this, I have not lost sight of the fact that she is a DOG! She is a luxury I choose to have in my life. Some might say that children are a luxury as well, but I don't think that's completely true. Children are necessary to continue our species. Dogs are wonderful, cuddly creatures who enrich our lives in many ways, but certainly not necessary to our survival.

That being said, I will NOT turn down a tax credit if this bill should pass. I spend a lot of money on my dog that goes into our collective economy. Conversely, I also will not be upset if it doesn't pass because my "baby" doesn't get the same treatment as my sisters child, (By the way, I love my niece infinitely as well) she spends a lot more money on her human child than I do on my dog.

Not to mention that this country has a lot bigger problems right now than helping people to afford pet care. This bill feels like a crutch to me. If you can't afford it outright, you shouldn't have a pet. Plan ahead, set money aside, get pet insurance if you must, work your pet into your budget, but a tax break? Give me a break.

Submitted by Joy | August 21 2009 |

Honestly, this should be limited to people who adopt from a pet shelter or a rescue group and relieve the burden of already abandoned pets. Why should this go to people who are irresponsible and purchase from backyard breeders or puppy mill stores?

Submitted by Cindy | August 26 2009 |

I have long felt that the cost of caring for a pet can be very demanding on overall household finances, even impossible for some. At times I have sacrificed some of my own needs in favor of doing what I can to give my pets good quality food and medical care. This tax relief would be very welcome indeed!

Submitted by Anonymous | August 26 2009 |

As a dog owner who has spent a few thousand dollars on surgeries, I'd personally welcome a tax break. As a tax specialist who knows hundreds of thousands of Americans can't even afford health insurance for their families, I'd say let's find a way to fund universal health care first. And as a realist, I propose the government provide free spaying/neutering throughout the country instead.

Submitted by Doreen | August 26 2009 |

I could certainly use the Tax Deduction with all the money that I spend on my rescue, especially when it comes to his expensive medical care even with pet insurance. However, I would like to see this made available to only those who rescue and adopt as an incentive for more people to turn toward rescue and adoption rather than purchase.

Submitted by Pit Bull owner in CA | August 29 2009 |

I absolutely agree with this tax credit, and would SERIOUSLY love to see it apply to those to Rescue and Adopt!

I agree this would encourage more to rescue, thus helping Rescues and Shelters fund their needs for massive amounts of food, supplies, and FREE Spay/Neuter services!!

I think EVERYONE would benefit from this. I also think a bill for Tax Credits for Spaying and Neutering your pets would be a fantastic idea. I believe WAY more people would be encouraged to Spay and Neuter!

Submitted by Anonymous | May 20 2010 |

More people would spay/neuter their dogs if it didn't cost a house payment to do it and could get it out of their heads that a dog has a clue what his balls are.

Submitted by Kristin | August 30 2009 |

This would be a great idea! When I go to the pharmacy, my medicines are tax free. My dog's monthly seizure medication is not. How is that fair?

Submitted by Anonymous | August 30 2009 |

I would really appreciate this bill being passed. I own 5 dogs and will do whatever it takes to make sure they are happy and healthy. I have spent over $18.000 this year alone so far (2 surgeries). I know most people don't spend that much on the average.

Submitted by michelle | September 4 2009 |

To the person that said pets are a choice and should not be offered a tax break: Look, if you have kids in this country, you can get back thousands of dollars more than you paid in to the tax system. How is that fair? It's not. Children are also a choice, so is home ownership, and most everything else we give tax breaks for. This bill would be eagerly welcomed by many of us that have strays and rescues and have spent thousands trying to get and keep them well. Hope it passes, but not holding my breath!!!

Submitted by LLT | September 5 2009 |

I have no kids but I have to pay for other's even though it is their CHOICE to have them. I choose to have a dog. I choose to pay monthly insurance for my dog in case of catastrophic events, but some people pay NO MONEY for their own kids health and dental and live off the system, and I have to pay taxes for that!! I think I should be able to deduct some of the costs for my dog, plus not have to be taxed on the medication that is way overpriced to begin with- -I once needed to take 2 weeks of prednisone - the cost was $5 for the 14 pills, I dog (10 lbs.) needed 1 prednisone pill and it was $18!! HOW IS THAT EVEN RIGHT???

Submitted by Anonymous | October 15 2009 |

This is great idea and I hope it works for the system. There are too many dogs / cats out there that need homes, but expense always comes in as problem. I for one have 5 pets that are very well cared for even if it cost me money i cant afford.
thanks from all us pet lovers

Submitted by JerBear | October 16 2009 |

This is a horrible idea! Owning a pet is 100% an optional choice, and the government should in no way be subsidizing pet ownership. Effectively what you are doing is forcing non-pet owners to subsidize your pet. We already do this for folks that have kids and it's easy to argue that this is a bad idea too.

Consider the economic axiom: subsidize a behavior and it will increase, tax a behavior and it will decrease. I guarantee that the effect of this bill would be an large increase in pet ownership, more mistreated pets, more unwanted pets, and other negative unforeseen repercussions. In the name of sanity don't support this bill.

Submitted by Anonymous | October 17 2009 |

Starve a child and feed a dumb animal!!! makes sense????

Submitted by Anonymous | November 5 2009 |

This statement doesn't even make sense. "Starve a child and feed a dumb animal!!! makes sense????"

People choose to have animals just as people choose to have children. If you can't afford either then you should not have them!!!!!

Submitted by Anonymous | October 19 2009 |

I think that we should have incentives for pet owners that are responsible and make sure that their pets get the care and medical attention that they deserve. It's the same for families with children. Children deserve to grow up with the nutrition and medical services that will ensure them to have the basic building blocks of a happy life. We give parents the incentive to care for their children, why shouldn't we do the same for pet owners?

Submitted by Anonymous | October 21 2009 |

This another hopelessly stupid bills that the hopelessly stupid congress comes up with. Get rid of all of them, and get some normal people to represent the people

Submitted by Anonymous | January 31 2010 |

This bill should be 100% passed. It is a joke that people are able to get huge breaks on their taxes based on the number of kids they have. Those same kids will cost the government money in the form of health care, education, and possibly more if their parents are non-productive, which is often the case with people with multiple children.

Submitted by cora | September 11 2012 |

Wonderfurr idea!!

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