In 1999, my husband and I decided that our house was too big and empty for the two of us. So we did what many couples our age did: we got a dog. Our lab mix, Lyle, has been a part of our family ever since. He goes with us to Maine on vacation every year. He’s been camping with us across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and has splashed through the beaches of North Carolina. He has snatched the occasional pie on Thanksgiving (maintaining his “who me?” expression all the while covered in meringue). And as the first official “grandpuppy”, he even gets gifts from my mom at Christmas.
When we first got him, we dubbed him the “Six Million Dollar” dog. He had not been treated well as a puppy and when he found us at our local SPCA, he had serious respiratory and intestinal infections. He sneezed the entire way home and later, vomited continuously. As a result, we got to know our vet pretty well early on. Since then, he’s survived Lyme disease (twice!) and an attack from a dog down the street which resulted in several stitches. I would venture to say that we’ve paid as much for his care as we have for our three kids.
Since I filed my taxes today (hey, no judgments), I was reminded that deductions and credits allowed for children can be significant. Not so for pets. Except in the case of service animals, you’re not allowed any deductions for the care of pets. That may, however, be changing.
Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) has introduced a bill, Humanity and Pets Partnered Through the Years (“HAPPY Act”) which would allow taxpayers to deduct up to $3,500 a year in pet care expenses. That may elicit a chuckle or two from his colleagues on the Hill but before they dismiss the idea, they should consider these statistics from the American Veterinary Medical Association:
- In 2006, nearly half of pet owners, or 49.7%, considered their pets to be family members.
- There are more than 72 million pet dogs in the U.S. and nearly 82 million pet cats. (taxgirl note: that’s roughly equivalent to the number of taxpayers that same year)
- The average veterinary expenditure per household for all pets was $366 in 2006.
The bill would allow a deduction for “amounts paid in connection with providing care (including veterinary care) for a qualified pet expense other than any expense in connection with the acquisition of the qualified pet.” Qualified pets would include legally owned, domesticated, live animals. So dogs yes, illegal ferrets and such, no. You can read the entire text of the bill here.
Clearly, animal rights groups think this is a good idea. “We think this is as much a health care bill as any,” said Nancy Perry, vice president of government affairs at the Humane Society of the United States. “It’s a human health issue to ensure that pets are provided with better care because of the role they play in our families.”
On the one hand, I’m a little skeptical. We are, after all, in a tough economy with a huge deficit. More tax cuts?
But I do *get* it. For many taxpayers, like me, pets are family. And the cost of providing quality care for a pet can be mind-boggling (our trip to Penn for Lyle’s emergency stitches ran over $1000). Maybe – and it’s a real maybe – the availability of deductions might encourage some pet owners to provide better care for their pets – if you’ve ever seen Animal Planet’s Animal Cops, you know what I’m talking about.
So, what do you think: should the care of pets be considered deductible?