California Fido Fine Defeated!

When you sign a petition, or send a letter to your congressman, you can’t help wondering: “Will this really make a difference?” For California animal lovers, the answer is yes. On February 19th, state legislators approved a budget which did not include the controversial “Fido Fine,” a proposed nine percent sales tax on veterinary services. Last November, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recommended taxing medical care for animals in order to raise an estimate $357 million in new revenue for the deficit-heavy state. His proposal would make California only the fourth state to tax veterinary services, along with Hawaii, New Mexico and South Dakota.
Veterinarians, pet owners and the American Humane Association immediately raised cries of protest. William Grant, president of California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) called the proposed tax “bad public policy.” He warned that making veterinary care more expensive could force some pet owners to forego treatment for their animals and either euthanize them or abandon them at already-overcrowded shelters. Animal lovers objected strongly to the Governor putting medical care for their beloved pets in the same category as other “taxable services” such as furniture and appliance repair. Thousands of phone calls, emails and faxes flowed into the Governor’s office, opposing the new tax. Perhaps no one reminded Mr. Schwarzenegger that 57 percent of California households include at least one pet, and that their protests had already defeated his 2004 proposal to save money by allowing shelters to euthanize animals more quickly.
Without addressing the humanitarian argument, the California Legislative Analyst’s Office ultimately rejected the veterinary tax because “it would create inequities in the tax structure.” Whatever the reason, animal lovers can celebrate the defeat of a potentially disastrous new tax. The current economic crisis has already increased the number of unwanted pets abandoned at California shelters. Raising the cost of veterinary care would have made the problem much worse. Rescue groups like Much Love are very grateful for the support of so many Californians who made the effort to be heard on behalf of their four-legged friends.

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