Posted by: animalvoice | September 23, 2009

HAPPY Act for Pets

     The first time I heard that statement I thought some Congressman had lost his mind. What the heck was he talking about? Well when I researched the subject, I discovered it was the catch name for a bill introduced into Congress by Representative Thaddeus McCotter. I was astonished to learn that McCotter is actually a Republican from Michigan, who introduced the bill on July 31, 2009. The bill is identified as H.R. 3501 and officially known as the ‘Humanity and Pets Partnered Through the Years (HAPPY) Act. The text of the bill can be found at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:H.R.3501. The ASPCA website has an action alert with an already filed out letter that all you have to do is sign and it is automatically emailed to your local U.S. Representative. https://secure2.convio.net/aspca/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=2605.

      Essentially the essence of the bill is to provide a tax deduction for pet care expenses up to a maximum of $3,500.00 per year. Qualified expenses include ‘amounts paid in connection with providing care (including veterinary care) for a qualified pet other than any expense in connection with the acquisition of the qualified pet. In layman’s terms that means you can’t deduct the charges you paid to adopt the animal from a breeder or shelter. You could however deduct regular veterinary expenses such as spay/neuter, office visits, vaccines and surgeries.

      It is significant to point out that Rep. McCotter stated in the ‘findings’ section of the bill the following two points:

(1)               According to the 2007-2008 National Pet Owners Survey, 63% of United States households own a pet.

(2)               The Human-Animal Bond has been shown to have positive effects upon people’s emotional and physical well-being.

     From further research I have learned that of the 63% of households owning pets, only 3% opt for pet health insurance, according to the Wall Street Journal. In the next year, it is estimated that the number will grow to about 5-7%. That still leaves a tremendous amount of pet owners paying for veterinary care from their own pockets.

     As advances in veterinary care allow pets to live longer lives, this usually corresponds to higher costs for care. It’s not unusually to have veterinary bills of more than $1,000.00 for surgeries, emergency room visits or long-term chronic care, which can have a major impact on family finances. The HAPPY Act is important because it would help Americans provide their pets with the medical attention and quality of life they deserve. After all adopting a pet is a commitment for life, similar to getting married, or having a child (2-legged).

     As I’ve stated in an earlier blog entitled ‘a child in need’ I explain our situation when our SON Riley developed an eye disorder at the age of six months. Because he is not ‘just a pet’ but a ‘member of our family as much as we are as parents’, we drove four hours to Connecticut and paid a specialist over $1200.00 for eye surgery. We attempted to get pet insurance but it was a pre-existing condition (sound familiar) so we ended up paying for his care out of pocket. You can read the blog to learn the entire story, including suggestions made by my so called colleagues at the law office, of what I could do to take care of Riley permanently.

     I have seen first hand in the shelter where I am on the Board of Directors, adoptions are way down this year, but more pets are being abandoned at the shelters for the inability to pay for their care. This is also seen with the rise in foreclosures as people move from home to apartment where a pet might not be allowed. Some people bring their animals to the shelters others abandon them by leaving them in the abandoned home or yard. This bill may help ensure that some pets get the treatment that they need AND are still able to remain in the loving home instead of being wretched away and abandoned to fend for themselves.

     As a fellow blogger wrote ‘opponents of the bill might say that pets are just possessions and owners don’t deserve a tax break. But for many people, pets are more than that. They are members of the family! If a tax exemption allowed people to take better care of their pets, I’m all for it…I recognize that not everyone feels the same way I do. Still a tax break may encourage people of all pet philosophies to take better care of their pets.’

     Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with this bill, I think everyone would agree that the economy sucks for everyone. Why should pets be just one more victims of the downward spiral our nation is going through?

     This blog entry started out with a simple message to friends on Facebook talking about the bill and asking them for their support by sending letters of support to their local congressperson. My message will be the first comment.

     I include ALL comments in their entirety because I believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I respect that even if I don’t agree with them. Let’s agree to disagree. But I think we all agree that this bill if passed would be only a tiny baby-step in the right direction of animal rights.

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Responses

  1. Kris McConville September 23 at 9:46am

    Hey, there is a bill to allow for pet costs to be tax deductible. Since I know that most if not all of you have pets this could be a great law. To send a letter in support to your local congressperson go to

    https://secure2.convio.net/aspca/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=2605&JServSessionIdr002=3o2e30phy5.app28a

    Or if that link doesn’t work then go to http://www.aspca.org and look under their action alert or search for Happy Act.

    Thanks

  2. Rick Manocchi September 23 at 10:05am

    Having just found out that Squeekie, my 14 year old cat is diabetic, I certainly wouldn’t mind being able to deduct his and my other 2 cat’s expenses. But I have to ask, at the risk of angering other pet owners: where is the money from this tax exemption going to come from? And would it not be better spent on more important things?

    In my humble opinion, the amount of money for up to 63% of the nation claiming up to $3,500 a year in pet expenses would be tremendous. Wouldn’t that same amount of money be better spent helping to provide health care for the HUMANS that are currently uninsured?

    In my simple little mind, things are categorized as either necessities or luxuries. People need to have a reasonable place to live, an adequate supply of food and water for themselves and at least a minimal level of health care. Any of those things, being necessities for life, I could understand being tax-exempt (granted, some medical expenses are. But if you’ve ever tried to right those off, you know they need to be a SIGNIFICANT portion of your income before you qualify for any tax benefits).

    Pet ownership, while fantastic and rewarding, is a luxury, pure and simple. I love all three of my cats. I dearly loved the two I had to euthanize. I’ve been a pet owner all my life. I can not see myself ever being without the love and friendship of a cat or dog, and I am happy to say that I am able to afford being a pet owner. When it comes right down to it, there is no “need” to own a pet, just as there is no “need” to own a computer, or even an automobile.

    If the economy were in a stronger place, and if the Federal Government was not already hemorrhaging money at an astronomical rate, I would support something like this. I think we need to choose things like this very, very carefully.

    I hope everyone will think about this carefully, before asking their own representative to support this bill.

    Thanks for taking the time to read this, folks.

    Rick Manocchi
    Pet Owner and Tax Payer

  3. Kris McConville September 23 at 11:12am

    Rick,

    You and I have been friends for years and I value your opinion. I’m always open to a healthy debate. I have a blog that addresses ‘serious animal rights’ issues. I’ll be doing a blog about this subject. I’ll make sure to add in your comment.

    As you know my cats are my children and I would never, ever have a child (2 legged variety) even if I could. You’re right – that is my choice. However, as a parent of 2 daughters you get deductions for your children – it would be nice to SOMEDAY have deductions for MY CHILDREN.

    My blog is http://www.animalvoice.wordpress.com

  4. Cari B. Rincker September 23 at 12:25pm

    that does sound like a great law!

  5. Rick Manocchi September 23 at 2:10pm

    I’ll check out the blog site, Kris. Thanks!

    Just to be clear, please take my response as “just my $0.02”. It wasn’t meant to be disrespectful, at all!!

  6. Rick,

    I enjoy a healthy debate. That is what this blog is all about. We can agree to disagree. I know that not everyone will share my views. I just ask that everyone be respectful of the views of others.

    thanks — hug a pet – you’ll live longer

  7. Well – I don’t have any pets – at least not that live with me… My younger son has our dog “Puggy” (guess what kind of dog he is??) with him at his dad’s in another state. But hmmm… I am just so tied up wondering how my 84 year old mother’s insurance can possibly not pay for her long term care any longer, just because she didn’t have long term care insurance…. My dad was retired military, for goddsake! So – what the heck is that about – and what the heck are we (our country) going to do about the health care crisis for HUMANS… Not that we HUMANS don’t deserve a tax break for animals – ha ha – I just want my mom to get her care – as she should.


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