A Tax for Vaccinating Dogs Seems Backwards

Imagine being taxed for vaccinating your dog for rabies. In Illinois, it’s a real possibility now. It’s a local issue in that state, but if it passes, be ready ” it’ll probably come up where you live too.

Known as House Bill 315 or Anna’s Bill. It is named after Anna Cieslewicz from Evergreen Park, Ill., a Chicago suburb. She was attacked and killed by two stray pit bulls when she was jogging in Dan Ryan Woods in January of 2003. The aim of the bill is to raise money for no-cost or low-cost spays and neuters and to lessen the number of stray and vicious dogs. These are admirable and appropriate goals, but taxing people for vaccinating their pets is no way to go about accomplishing those goals.

Think about your morning. Perhaps, you visited a local coffee shop for a morning caffeine hit. Not only did the caffeine jolt you, but so did the tax you paid on the cup of java. Did you fill up your auto with gas? More taxes. Perhaps, you purchased cigarettes ” that means extra taxes because smoking is considered a sin (I’m not fan of smoking, just pointing out the truth). Most Americans ” regardless of political or pet affiliations ” would agree, we’re being taxed enough.

Also, by creating this new tax, the door is swung open for more. I’m concerned that the politicians may find they’re just not getting the expected revenue from the tax (that’s a familiar refrain, isn’t it?), so to rectify the gap, they hike the fee next year. Or maybe they’ll want to levy additional costs for local animal control agencies, plastic bags in dog parks, or tax other pet vaccines to raise money for issues unrelated to animal welfare. Soon other vaccines may be taxed, even vaccines for cats. Before long, it’s not inconceivable that the taxes on a rabies vaccine will cost more than the vaccine itself.

Another problem with the bill is that we’re taxing people for taking care of their pets and being responsible.

Medical care for humans is one of the few sectors where there are no taxes. A vaccine for your child isn’t taxed, and while Lord knows, we’re paying through the nose for prescription meds ” at least they are not taxed. Why shouldn’t the same be true for pet meds?

Statistically (according to the American Veterinary Medical Association Pet Ownership Survey) most people in the United States have at least one pet. But if you’re among the minority who don’t own a pet, you may be thinking, ‘Why the heck do I care?’

Well, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Ga., rabies is here. It’s a reality. Of course, people can be infected, and rabies is deadly. Public health officials in Illinois and elsewhere agree that discouraging people from vaccinating dogs for rabies is a downright dangerous plan.

It’s true the proposed tax of three dollars per rabies vaccination is affordable, but what will the cost be in a couple of years? A surprising number of pet owners believe vaccinating their pets is already too expensive.

If the proposed bill becomes law, veterinarians will be asked to play the role of tax collector, something which they rightly disdain; we’d never ask doctors to do this. The vets and their staffs will have to deal with paperwork from the state when they collect the tax. When they alter a pet under the new rules and seek reimbursement from the state for a low-cost procedure, that’ll mean more paperwork. This all means more time that vets will be dealing with bureaucracy rather than health care. And who do you think will end up paying for that time?

As for low-cost or no-cost spays and neuters, I’m all for it. But instead of forcing a tax on responsible dog owners, and discouraging appropriate vaccinations, I suggest a voluntary check off on state income taxes. I also propose that state veterinary medical associations work with shelters to raise funds for low-cost or no-cost spays and neuters by simply asking clients to contribute to a fund. I bet they’ll raise more money than the proposed three bucks per vaccine.

However, what proponents of this bill apparently don’t get is that money isn’t the only solution. In Chicago, low-cost or no-cost spays and neuters are readily available through three agencies. In fact, the Chicago Animal Control Department even has a vehicle that tours various targeted neighborhoods. When they come to you in Chicago, the spay or neuter is free. Since these laudatory programs have been in place in Chicago, the number or spays and neuters have increased, but they are still not where they should be.

But cost is not the only reason why people resist altering their pets. Ask veterinarians practicing in a Hollywood 90210-type zip; they’ll concur. There are a myriad of excuses people offer as to why they don’t spay or neuter their pets, and these need to be addressed in an educational or informational campaign. What’s more, where free or low-cost spays and neuters are available many residents aren’t even aware the program exists.

I suggest to limit the number of stray dogs a fine is levied. When a dog is found wandering around loose a second time, the irresponsible owner must pay the fine and pay to have the dog spayed or neutered – not responsible dog owners located ten counties away. What’s more that dog should be microchipped.

If the dog gets out a third time, the fine is increased significantly, and the owner must attend a local dog training class. On the fourth go around, the dog is confiscated.

That’s unless the wayward dog is deemed dangerous because of an attack. I’m sorry that dogs should have to be the ones that pay the ultimate price for reckless owners who should never have dogs in the first place. Owners of these dogs should be charged with a crime.

What happened to Anna was unthinkable. I think her memory merits the kind of measures that I’m suggesting and does justice to the intent politicians say they want to achieve.

House Bill 315 is called a vicious dog bill; it’s merely a vicious tax bill. I don’t honestly understand why the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States are strong supporters, perhaps it’s their desperate zeal to increase spays and neuters. However, as much as I hate opposing these worthy organizations, taxing responsible dog owners, and funneling the money into state coffers to where even a bloodhound can’t sniff is a bad idea.


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