The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 28, 2012

Our Readers Speak — Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012


Surcharge is best fix for pet overpopulation

Yes, it is reigning cats and dogs and West Virginians are working hard to solve the problem of pet overpopulation in our state. The article titled “Reigning Cats and Dogs” which ran in the Oct. 10, 2012, edition of The Register-Herald fails to identify any solutions to the pet overpopulation problem in West Virginia. Instead, it argues that placing a higher fee on pet food suppliers would be a “disguised tax.” This is simply untrue. As Theresa Bruner, a member of the Federation of Humane Organizations, stated in the article dated Oct. 9, 2012, the proposed legislation merely requires an increase to pet food manufacturers and distributors of $25. This is not a disguised tax; it is merely a surcharge on an already required license.

The truth is that the article offers no solutions. Various organizations in West Virginia have looked at alternatives. Other alternatives that have been explored include creating a surcharge on rabies vaccinations; however, this could increase the number of people who do not have their animals vaccinated for dangerous diseases like rabies. Another alternative, raising the license and registration fee on dogs, would be ineffective because the compliance rate is very low and enforcement would place an added burden, financially and otherwise, on our already understaffed and, in many areas, underfunded law enforcement agencies. Specialty auto license plates cannot solve the problem because in West Virginia all money from the sale of these license plates goes toward the Department of Transportation budget only. Finally, a yearly appropriation from the Legislature would also be a bad idea because it would not be guaranteed every year and would also come from taxpayers’ pockets.

Pet food manufacturers and distributors must buy a license or permit to sell their products in West Virginia. The $25 surcharge would be added to the already existing permit fee for pet food only, not livestock or poultry feed. This would also not include specialty food for birds, fish, etc. Last year, according to FOHO’s research, there were 417 companies that obtained permits for pet food products. A surcharge on these companies would bring in a little over $100,000 per year consistently. This is not a tax on West Virginia citizens or responsible pet owners. The pet food companies do not have to pass this cost on to consumers. The pet food industry did $119 million in business last year. However, should the cost be passed on, the increase will be minimal. In fact, in Maine, where this system is already in place, the annual increase in pet food costs was merely 57 cents! Let me repeat that — if the costs of pet food would increase due to the surcharge, the yearly cost of that increase is literally pocket change. The money shelters save from having to shelter and euthanize fewer animals could cover this slight increase.

The truth of the matter is that the pet food industry lobbyists do not want this bill passed. But the pet food industry and its lobbyists do not have West Virginians’, or the animals’, best interests in mind. They only wish to increase profits while animals go homeless and West Virginia taxpayers suffer.

Melissa Lilly