Finally, some good news for pet owners facing tough economic times-the Humanity and Pets Partnered Through the Years (HAPPY) Act (H.R. 3501) was just introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives and referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means. If approved, this act would amend the Internal Revenue Code to allow an individual to deduct up to $3,500 for “qualified pet care expenses.” Most routine pet care expenses would be covered, such as veterinary visits; however, the cost of purchasing a pet would not be covered. Pets that qualify are those who are “legally owned, domesticated live animals.” This does not include animals that are utilized in conjunction with a trade or business or animals that are used for research.

The HAPPY Act was introduced by Representative Thaddeus McCotter, a Republican from Michigan (my home state!) on July 31, 2009, and was written based on research supplied by the American Pet Products Association’s National Pet Owners Survey. The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council is also giving their full support and issued the following statement:

“Providing pet owners the opportunity to deduct pet care expenses is an important step toward ensuring that pet owners provide adequate veterinary and other necessary pet care. It encourages responsible pet ownership and will hopefully reduce the abandonment of pets by people struggling as a result of the economic downturn.”

The ASPCA estimates that yearly veterinary expenses for one adult cat can run close to $700. That cost is even higher for a senior cat or one with chronic health problems. With a $3,500 deduction, the HAPPY Act helps make it more affordable for people to provide their pets with the care they need. Additionally, pet owners who are suffering during this recession will be less likely to abandon their pets. The hope is that the HAPPY Act will also persuade others to adopt one of the countless animals that are filling up our nation’s already jam-packed shelters.

Critics slammed Representative McCotter for introducing this bill. Stating that as a representative from Michigan, he should be focusing on more pressing issues, such as the unemployment rate, since Michigan’s is one of the highest in the nation. While the unemployment rate and the economy in general are important to everyone these days, I do not see anything wrong with trying to help pet owners cope as well. Representative McCotter realizes that dogs and cats are not just “pets” to many people; they are members of the family. Additionally, for a family whose budget that is already stretched thin, this bill could help make sure that a family is forced to decide between care for their pet and some other family necessities.

The bill is currently with the House Ways and Means Committee. To further support this bill, write your congressmember and urge them to co-sponsor or support the HAPPY Act. For a form letter and to sign the petition, visit

Ways to Save Money on Pet Care

Instead of going to a breeder or a pet store, adopt.

Not only will adopting save you money, you will help make a dent in the millions of animals just waiting to find a loving home. Even if you want a purebred, studies show that 25-30 percent of shelter animals are purebred. If you don’t see what you’re looking for at your area animal shelter, you can visit and search for an animal based on breed, size, age, gender, and your zip code.

Spay and neuter your pet.

Spaying and neutering will save you money in the long run. Neutering male dogs and cats lowers the risk of testicular tumors or prostate problems, both of which result in costly veterinary care. Spaying female dogs and cats greatly reduces their chances of developing mammary, ovarian, or uterine cancers, all of which are very expensive to treat. Spayed and neutered pets are also less likely to slip out of the house or yard to find mates. Each year, thousands of roaming animals in search of mates are hit by cars or are attacked by other animals. If they survive these accidents, the vet bills will pile up quickly.

Keep your pet healthy and fit.

Extra pounds on your pet will increase the likelihood of problems such as arthritis, diabete,s and cancer, all of which result in expensive veterinary care. Talk to your veterinarian about reducing the amount of food your pet consumes, or changing diets. Oftentimes switching to a wet food only diet helps control weight.

For more information on keeping your pet lean and healthy, read a previous Pet Chat column on obesity.

You don’t need an expensive dog walker; hire your neighbor’s child to walk your dog

Experts say that dogs should be walked twice a day, for a minimum of 30 minutes. Understandably, not everyone has time for this and that’s where dog walkers come in. But instead of hiring an expensive dog walker, see if there is a responsible teen in your neighborhood who can walk your dog instead. Not only will your dog get the much needed exercise, but the teen will as well. Also, it will help teach the teen responsibility and provide some pocket change.

Learn to do things yourself.

Next time you have your pet’s nails trimmed professionally, ask if you can watch. It’s a simple procedure once you see how it’s done and you can start doing it yourself. You should also learn to brush your pet’s teeth to lengthen the time between expensive cleanings at the vet’s office. If you are ambitious, you can learn to groom your pet yourself, saving loads of money at the groomers.

Prevent accidents.

Keeping your cat inside and your dog on a leash will help keep them out of trouble outdoors. But many pets have accidents indoors as well. Make sure your home is pet-proofed and hazards are out of reach. For more information on dangers in the home, such as poisonous plants and foods, read a previous Pet Chat column on protecting your pet from household dangers .

Preventative health care.

Prevention is essential when it comes to saving money at the vet. Annual wellness exams can catch small problems before they turn into big issues, so skipping exams won’t save you money in the long run. Also, talk to your veterinarian about tri-annual vaccines in lieu of annual ones. Many vaccines, especially for cats, don’t have to be given every year particularly if your cat stays indoors. You should also ask your veterinarian about ordering certain costly medications for your pet online through 800-pet meds. I saved 50 percent when I ordered flea preventative for my cats. For more information, visit

Shop wisely.

When it comes to buying food for your pet, the more you can buy in bulk, the more you save. If a big bag is too much for your dog or cat, consider splitting the bag up between other pet owners that feed the same food. You should also check your Sunday paper for discounts on pet products at places such as Lemos, Pet Smart, and Petco. If you aren’t already members at these stores, consider applying. As a member, you will be eligible for discounts that are available.

Keep pet sitting between friends.

Instead of hiring a pet sitter when you’re out of town, consider trading animal watching with another pet owner. If you don’t have a friend with a pet, you could exchange other services. If you are an accountant, for example, offer to do your friends taxes or help with financial budgeting, in exchange for pet sitting services.

Look into pet insurance.

There are many different types of pet insurance on the market and depending on your pet, it may be beneficial. Talk to your veterinarian to see if pet insurance will benefit your pet and your pocket book.

The HAPPY Act is appropriately named. Keeping your pet healthy and happy and saving money during these economic times-what could be better?


Adoptable Pet of the Week

Kibbles is a three-year-old, joyful and friendly male neutered dog who loves to play ball. Since he likes kids, and they like him, he would make a great addition to a family. If you already have a dog, chances are Kibbles will get along well with your dog, too. Because he has a tendency to gain weight when he does not exercise, be prepared to spend plenty of active walk or play time with your new friend.

For more information, visit the Santa Barbara Humane Society at 5399 Overpass Rd., call 805-964-4777, or visit them online at Shelter hours are Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.


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