THIS YEAR, LAWMAKERS IN SEVERAL STATES HAVE
ENACTED TAX INCREASES TO PROGRAMS AND RESEARCH
LABS SPECIFIC TO ANIMALS. ADDI TIONALLY, IN NEW YORK,
THREE BILLS WOULD IMPOSE TAXES ON PETS AND ANY
PET PRODUCTS SOLD IN THE SAME TRANSACTION. THE
PET INDUSTRY JOINT ADVISORY COUNCIL OPPOSES THESE
TAXES, SAID PRESIDENT MIKE BOBER (INSET).
BY MIKE BOBER
Last year, almost 1,200 businesses showcased their products and services at SuperZoo. Together, we make up the $79 billion responsible pet industry, helping millions of Americans care for companion animals. At the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), we help you to help your customers by making sure government doesn’t get between them and their pets. Unnecessary regulations and mandates can block a relationship with a furry, feathered or scaled friend.
It’s not just mandates that can prove problematic, however. Also damaging are unnecessary taxes, which
can discourage your customers from getting necessary care for their pets, or even prevent the purchase of a
pet in the first place. And they can raise your costs to the point of no return.
NO SECTOR IS SAFE FROM TAXATION
This year, lawmakers in West Virginia and South Dakota enacted tax increases that will fund a spaying/
neutering assistance program and improvements to an animal research lab at a state university, respectively.
While these are valuable end goals for lawmakers to fund, the use of the industry as a piggybank is inherently
This is another example of legislators looking at the industry and seeing dollar signs instead of building
support for these programs through other methods of funding.
Bag taxes are also commonly proposed, despite being based around largely inaccurate perceptions of the
harm plastic bags do to the environment. To many politicians, the five-cent tax proposed in Virginia and New
York, or the 10-cent tax proposed in Vermont, might not seem like much. But for a poor family, every dollar
matters. Additionally, these taxes are a costly burden to businesses—segregating money received, paying the
special tax to the state and finding a way to not lose sales as customer costs rise.
As a final example, three bills in New York would impose taxes on pets and any products sold in the same
transaction as a way to discourage animal sales altogether. Senate Bill 1557’s tax is 5 percent, while Senate Bill
3089 and its sister Assembly Bill 4114 have a 12 percent tax. Smaller for-profit breeders and store entities are
excluded from the tax, as are incorporated nonprofits.
We oppose these extensive and punitive taxes. Pet sales totaled $130 million in New York in 2015, and
product sales hit $900 million. Even if only a fraction of those sales were taxed by these bills, pet lovers and
pet providers would be hit by millions in unnecessary and burdensome tax increases.
BE AN EDUCATOR—ENGAGE EARLY AND OFTEN
Many times, elected officials are simply unaware of how taxes affect you and your customers. They don’t
realize that these additional fees can prevent pet owners from getting an animal in the first place, or delay
necessary health services like grooming. Your involvement in this process—getting to know your lawmakers
personally, having them tour your facilities, etc.—might be critical to them better understanding how your
community benefits from a responsible pet business.
Regretfully, once a tax is in place, it is nearly impossible to eliminate it. Taxes usually go straight to new
spending, so eliminating a tax to help one constituency means justifying spending reductions to another. Being
able to leverage an existing relationship with a politician—especially if you can build a coalition of customers,
fellow businesses and trade associations—is often key to preventing passage in the first place.
Engaging early and often is an investment in the future of your business, and those of your pets and customers. Data can help, like the recent study that PIJAC commissioned on the economic impact of the pet industry (1.3 million jobs supported or created in 2015) or the 2015 Human Animal Bond Research Institute study
that showed that owning a pet conservatively saves the U.S. health care system more than $11 billion annually.
But the old saying is quite true in politics—an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Knowing the
right people and having the right arguments before things become critical is the best way to victory.
Mike Bober is president and CEO of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC). PIJAC members include retailers,
companion animal suppliers, manufacturers, wholesale distributors, manufacturers’ representatives, pet hobbyists and
other trade organizations.
July 27, 2017 SUPERZOO SHOW DAILIES Pet Product News International
PIJAC president Mike Bober makes the case against pet industry taxes
to protect your customers.
Engaging early and
often is an investment
in the future of your
—Mike Bober ]