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A Recommended Sales and Use Tax Proposed by Governor Schwarzenegger Will Tax Veterinary Services, Says Social Compassion in Legislation

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 21 /PRNewswire/ -- In a recent announcement, Governor Schwarzenegger recommended broadening the Sales and Use Tax to include "luxury" items such as veterinary services, which is sure to cause an increase in animal shelter overpopulation. Animal welfare advocates across the state are joining forces and urging all pet owners to take action and contact the governor and state legislature to stop this tax.

"Our companion animals are family members and taking care of their health is a responsibility, not a discretionary spending decision like golf or furniture repair," said Judie Mancuso, president of Social Compassion in Legislation. "No other medical professions were included in the sales tax proposal, and with record numbers of families already making the unfortunate choice to abandon their pets because they cannot afford them in today's economy, the last thing we need to do is increase medical costs."

Due to the poor economy and home foreclosures, shelters across the city, state and nation are seeing an increase in animal intake. This new tax for veterinary services will cause some pet owners to be unable to afford proper pet care and others to relinquish their pets to shelters.

"Subjecting complicated veterinary medical procedures and treatments to taxation would be the same as taxing health care for children in California," said William Grant, II, DVM, president of the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA). "What will happen to the sick or injured pets of people already struggling with potential home foreclosures and job losses? How much more heartbreak is it fair to ask of our fellow citizens?"

"The current economic crisis has impacted many aspects of our lives, and pets are no exception," said Michael Markarian, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. "Pet food and regular veterinary care are necessities, not luxuries, for the companion animals in our lives, and we can't skimp on these costs without jeopardizing the health and safety of our pets. Rather than find solutions to help pet owners during this money crunch, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has found a way to make matters worse."

Under the governor's proposal, essential veterinary services like routine exams, vaccinations and prescription medications would be lumped into the category of taxable services such as "appliance and furniture repair, vehicle repair and golf." All other medical professions were excluded from the sales tax proposal. As Dr. Barbara Hodges of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association said, "Veterinary services should not be considered nonessential or luxury services, but as truly essential family medical services."

"We would be defeating our own progress in getting people to be 'responsible' pet guardians by making it more difficult for basic veterinary care, not to mention extensive veterinary care," said Beth Caffrey, Humane Education Department, Central California SPCA. "All of our efforts in creating healthy communities that include animals would be undermined if we put animals back in the category with products like furniture. Diseases will have the upper hand again as more people provide less health care for their animals and no doubt it will be another brick wall to hit for the over flooded animal shelters. The Central California SPCA went from a 26 percent increase in owner surrenders when foreclosures started to a 34 percent increase when the economy took its turn. Adoptions have also dropped off. If we tax those that would have provided a home and health care, the animals may lose their future."

Social Compassion in Legislation and the California Veterinary Medical Association are working hard to defeat this proposal and we need everyone's support. A special session of the legislature has convened to act on the budget deficit, and this issue may be decided in the next few days. We need to send an urgent message that veterinary care should be treated like other essential medical services, not like home decorating or auto detailing.

Please contact the Office of Gov. Schwarzenegger at 916-445-2841 today and ask that he remove the proposed sales tax on veterinary services. You can also ask your own veterinarian to get involved, and send an urgent alert to his or her clients.

"In California, over 800,000 dogs and cats already enter our shelter systems every year, and more than half are killed because there are not enough homes," added Mancuso. "This year, most shelters are reporting a 20-30 percent increase in those numbers and up to a 200 percent increase in large animals. This is one tax we absolutely cannot afford."

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SOURCE Social Compassion in Legislation
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