To help balance the state budget, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed to apply a 9 percent sales tax to veterinary services. Under the new proposal, veterinary services are rolled in with appliance, furniture, and vehicle repair, as well as golf and amusement park tickets as new categories that would be subject to sales tax. All other medical services were excluded from the proposal. This proposal is treating pets as if they were products.
A 9 percent tax may not seem like much, but when you consider that many senior pets have manageable illnesses that require regular vet visits, a 9 percent tax is going to add up. I personally have a senior cat with inflammatory bowel disease and I have to take him to the vet several times a year for treatments. I don’t even want to think of the increase in costs I’m going to have to endure.
Because of this tax, many people may just opt out of expensive treatments all together. In addition, many pet owners may be forced to cut back on their regular vet visits. Fewer vet visits mean infectious diseases, parasitism, and degenerative diseases such as heart problems, kidney disease, and arthritis can go untreated or unnoticed. And waiting until a pet needs emergency care can be far more expensive than taking steps to prevent a problem. There are many other negative impacts this vet tax will cause.
Some possible consequences of the proposed vet tax:
• Fewer veterinary visits, imperiling the health of pets.
• More people choosing to euthanize pets with serious but treatable conditions because of the increased costs.
• More pet owners opting out of preventative care such as vaccines, heartworm, and flea treatments.
• More people cutting back on other pet costs such as food; buying cheaper pet food leads to lesser quality ingredients, which can cause its own set of problems.
• Decreased business for veterinary professionals, who typically are small business owners and may need to eliminate jobs if business declines.
• Decreased business for pet groomers, doggie daycare centers, pet boarding facilities, and other pet luxuries as pet owners cut costs to save money.
• More pet owners abandoning their pets or adding to overcrowded shelters, thus costing Californians more to operate the shelters.
This proposal comes at a terrible time since shelters and rescue groups are overflowing with homeless animals who are victims of the current economic slowdown. Peggy Langle, executive director at the Santa Barbara Humane Society, says the number of pets coming into their shelter has increased slightly, up 5 percent from 2007. Jan Glick, director of Santa Barbara County Animal Services, states that their shelters in Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, and Lompoc have all seen a marked increase in the number of animals coming in, especially dogs. County Animal Services is mandated to take in strays, however, due to the fact that most of the local Humane Societies are limited access facilities. The county also takes in owner-relinquished pets.
The weak economy is also shrinking the pool of potential adopters. If the number of animals coming into shelters continues to increase and the number of adopters continues to go down, animal shelters are going to be in a world of hurt. And this coincides with a drop-off in government funding and charitable donations. It is painfully obvious that the vet tax is going to cripple our already struggling shelters.
California pets should not suffer because the state can’t balance its budget. Adding a sales tax to any medical care is the first step down the road to taxing all medical care. Say “no” to the vet tax!
What You Can Do
If you agree that this proposal is inadvisable, please send respectful calls, emails, or faxes of opposition to the governor and/or your Assembly representative and state senator, urging them to remove veterinary care from the proposed sales tax increase.
Phone: (916) 445-2841
Fax: (916) 558-3160 (new number)
State Assembly Representative Pedro Nava
Phone: (916) 319-2035
Fax: (916) 319-2135
State Senator Tony Strickland
Phone: (916) 651-4019
Fax: (916) 324-7544
The Honorable Karen Bass, Speaker of the Assembly
Phone: (916) 319-2047
Fax: (916) 319-2147