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Adoption bill could save pets

Tax credit might help people who rescue animals from shelters

Posted: February 14, 2009 12:16 a.m.
Updated: February 14, 2009 4:55 a.m.

With pets crammed whisker-to-whisker in shelters due to a record number of home foreclosures, state Assemblyman Cameron Smyth introduced a new bill that should offer some relief.

Assembly Bill 233 proposes a tax credit of up to $300 for those adopting animals from government-run animal shelters and nonprofit rescue organizations.

"We thought that with the change in the economy, this may be an incentive for people to adopt a pet," said Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, who introduced the bill Feb. 5.

L.A. County's Castaic animal shelter and private pet rescue organizations recently reported turning away a growing number of homeless pets as the economy flounders.

If passed, the tax credit would apply for adoption of any type of animal between Jan. 1, 2009 and Jan. 1, 2015. Smyth hopes the bill would create more space in overcrowded animal shelters.

"The (Castaic) shelter out here has always been filled to the maximum capacity, so we hope this will alleviate some of that crowding and save the lives of some animals," he said. "The cost (to local governments) is roughly $100 million a year to house the animals."

So far, the only sponsor of the bill, which applies to all animals, is the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, but Smyth said he anticipates additional sponsors.

"We have good support from the animal care community," Smyth said. "We will certainly have others to support the bill as we get closer."

Jennifer Davenport, director of local dog rescue organization New Leash On Life, said the tax credit for pet adoptions sends an important message to the public.

"It draws some recognition toward this country wanting to make a difference and saying we are going to reward people for rescuing homeless animals," Davenport said. Placerita Canyon-based New Leash On Life is a nonprofit organization that shelters injured and sick dogs and provides foster care through volunteers.

Davenport said incentives for adoption are welcome as foreclosures are forcing people to give up their animals because they lost their homes.

"The number of phone calls on that has definitely increased, and the shelter has also (received more calls)," she said.

Davenport added that her only concern is about whether people might abuse the incentive, adopting multiple animals just to get the tax credit. But she remains optimistic.

"Hopefully, the positive would outweigh the negative," she said. "When people are losing their homes and their jobs, a little tax credit would definitely help."

Adoption fees range between $40 and $70 for cats and dogs at Los Angeles County's six animal shelters, which includes the Castaic shelter.

The fees include spaying and neutering, vaccinations and a free health examination at participating veterinary offices, according to county's Department of Animal Care and Control Web site.

The deductions can be applied to all fees related to animal adoption and can even cover fees for multiple adoptions as long as they do not exceed the $300 limit, Smyth said. The assemblyman encouraged pet adopters to keep their receipts so they can file for the tax credit.

Smyth expects the bill to reach committee discussion in March.


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