Tuesday, September 27, 2011

HSUS Seeking to Provide Relief from Shelter Adoption Tax

In the midst of an economic crisis, which often drastically reduces donations to charitable and community service organizations, the Missouri state legislature has slapped a new fee on non-profit animal shelters and rescue groups already extremely tight on resources to fund their operations.
"Animal shelters are already struggling to care for the vast number of homeless animals in Missouri...a challenge compounded by the sudden influx of animals stranded by recent natural disasters and near record flooding. The last thing they need is to be hit with a senseless government tax on their lifesaving, charitable efforts," said Barbara Schmitz, Missouri state director of The HSUS. "This new fee is the wrong policy, at the wrong time, and will mean fewer dogs and cats get the medical care, vaccinations, and new loving homes they deserve."
Until the passage of SB 795 last year, Missouri's animal shelters were exempt from the licensing fees that the Missouri Department of Agriculture imposes on licensed breeders, dealers, pet stores, kennels, and other commercial entities through the Animal Care Facilities Act. Animal shelters are non-profit organizations that provide a public service to the community, and should not be lumped into the same category as for-profit commercial enterprises. In fact, it's very often the animal welfare organizations that are left to clean up the mess created by the profit-serving entities, such as the large-scale puppy mills that flood the market with dogs and puppies.

The removal of the exemption for these non-profit, community-based shelters, combined with the recent increase in the allowable range of state licensing fees passed as part of the bill enacted by the legislature which gutted the voter-approved Proposition B, could subject the already cash-strapped animal shelters in the state to hundreds or thousands of dollars, in additional fees each and every year. As a result, shelters will have fewer resources to care for animals and place them for adoption.

To counteract this severely misguided legislative maneuver, The Humane Society of the United States leaped into action on behalf of shelters and rescue groups throughout Missouri. The HSUS, the Dogwood Animal Shelter in Osage Beach, MO, and Stray Rescue of St. Louis, have filed suit seeking to stop this new government fee. In addition, the HSUS is urging the Missouri Department of Agriculture to include a hardship exemption for shelters and rescue groups in the regulations it has proposed to implement SB 161.

The legislative actions taken here in Missouri present a stark contrast to those in Pennsylvania. While Missouri is taxing shelters who adopt out dogs and cats, thereby actually imposing a financial penalty on animal welfare groups who provide new loving homes to dogs and cats in need, Pennsylvania is providing a tax credit to those who adopt homeless dogs and cats. PA's H.B. 1765 would provide a $300 tax credit to people who adopt dogs or cats from animal shelters throughout the state. The Pennsylvania model would serve as an example of a tax incentive which is properly aligned with the humane goal of providing loving homes for animals in need...this is the type of clear logic which seems to be in short supply these days in Jefferson City.

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