Thursday, January 15, 2009

Critical: Tell Gov. Schwarzenegger NO VET CARE TAX!

Animal guardians should not have to pay “luxury tax” on veterinary visits

My fellow Californians: first the bad news, then the other bad news. Our state faces a $41 billion budget deficit over the next 18 months, and to make matters worse, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger propounds paying it off by sticking animal guardians with the bill. How? By taxing veterinary care as a “luxury” item — literally equivalent (in the governor’s proposal) to other discretionary activities he now wants to tax like going to an amusement park, attending a sports event, playing golf, having your furniture repaired, or taking your car to a mechanic.

Schwarzenegger's short-sighted solution to solving California's debt crisis by imposing a “sales tax” of up to 10.5% on vet services (including routine checkups, vaccinations and prescription medications) is offensive enough. However, on top of that — adding linguistic insult to economic injury — he also wants to redefine taking a sick or injured animal companion to the vet as an optional extravagance (as opposed to a personal, family or moral obligation) that should be factored into your entertainment and household maintenance expenses. This regressive “Fido Fine” will surely force many financially-strapped guardians to choose between repairing the car and “fixing” the cat.

Terminator Tax

If anyone deserves a break in this tough economy, it’s animal guardians, who account for more than half the state’s population and spend about $2.7 billion a year on vet care. Unemployment is officially over 7% right now, so many people without jobs must (metaphorically) tighten their pets’ belts along with their own. Meanwhile, veterinary care is already too expensive for many families to afford, and the added tax would leave them even less able to provide for their own adopted animal family members, surely forcing some to surrender their animal companions to shelters for lack of funds.

Animal shelters, underfunded as they already are, would also have to pay more for essential veterinary services, including spay and neuter operations that reduce pet homelessness and euthanasia. Many large municipal shelters already spend several million dollars a year on such expenses — and would have to shell out hundreds of thousands more under Schwarzenegger’s plan. Every extra dollar allocated to veterinary care is a dollar taken away from animals who desperately need food, shelter, and every chance they can get to find loving guardians — meaning that shelters would no longer be able to feed, house, and save as many animals.

Arnold and Animals

In the original (1984) Terminator movie, Arnold (the actor) was a cold, murderous cyborg, but in the blockbuster sequel released seven years later, he played a good Terminator — a bodyguard transported back through time who is programmed to protect the life of a vulnerable boy. Similarly, Schwarzenegger (the governor) has also taken on these dual roles when dealing with animal protection issues — alternately playing the callous politico, then the compassionate leader.

For instance, while (at first) he called the proposal to ban the sale and production of foie gras in California “silly,” in the end he changed his tune and signed the bill into law in 2004. That same year, he tried to repeal a law that requires shelters to provide veterinary care for all animals, document and report on the number of animals they manage, and hold animals for a minimum of six days before euthanizing them — that is, until he suddenly rescinded his suggestion under concerted pressure from animal advocates (and his daughter's entreaties). Then again, Schwarzenegger famously appeared in a PETA anti-milk billboard campaign, and won the group’s “Proggy Award” last year for signing a bill to regulate the chaining of dogs.

Governor Schwarzenegger has shown concern for animals, so how can he not see how wrong and unfair it is to make caring people fork over more money for essential and life-saving services — especially when there are so many animal abusers who should be “paying” for their crimes? And so, I give you my plan for enabling California to resolve the budget shortfall and help animals at the same time: ensure that factory farms and slaughterhouses pay the maximum fines any and every time they violate anti-cruelty, environmental, or labor laws. That deficit would probably be paid down in no time if the government actually enforced existing statutes (any accountants out there want to crunch the numbers?) by cracking down on all the agribusiness producers who ignore state laws.

The California legislature could vote on this tax any day now, which you could be paying as soon as February 1st if they pass it, so now is the time to act. Please politely urge Governor Schwarzenegger and your state legislators to take the vet care tax out of the budget proposal, and to instead raise funds for California by collecting fines from factory farms that break laws meant to protect animals, people and the planet.

The easiest way to oppose this unjust tax is to send an automatic email to these elected officials through HSUS’s Humane Alert on this issue. But to have the maximum impact, use this contact info to follow up with postal letters, phone calls, faxes, or personal emails:

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814

Phone: 916/445-2841
Fax: 916/445-4633
Email the governor
Please also let your animal-loving family and friends in California know how they can help.


  1. Anonymous12:30 AM

    Great suggestion Mat!

    I also referenced it in my post.

  2. Anonymous2:10 AM

    If you are on Facebook please find my "Cause" NO VET CARE TAX IN CA! There you will find links and info on three ways to let Sacramento know how you feel about this.
    Thank you,

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