Statewide spay-neuter funding is needed
As executive directive of the Legislative Action Group for The Federation of Humane Organizations of WV — FOHO WV, I am writing in response to your editorial on Oct. 10, “Reigning Cats and Dogs.” I presented to the Senate Interim Panel on the need for a statewide funding solution for pet overpopulation and am quoted in your news article, “Stray dogs, cats cost W.Va. $8.5 million a year” on Oct. 9.
First, thank you for highlighting the subject of the projected $8 million of West Virginia taxpayer money to gather, house and euthanize over 80,000 unwanted animals per year in West Virginia shelters, the majority of which are very adoptable.
Our purpose at the meeting was to show why we need statewide spay-neuter funding in West Virginia to begin to address this pet overpopulation. We want to join the 34 states that have successful state-funded spay-neuter programs, the majority of which are effectively run by the state Department of Agriculture.
Your editorial expressed a concern with our proposal for funding. So let me address that. We are proposing an increase in an already existing fee paid by pet food distributors (cat and dog food only) in West Virginia to yield us over $100,000 a year. This is a logical and cost-effective way to raise part of the ongoing funding for a statewide spay and neuter program.
There is already in place a mechanism that requires pet food manufacturers/distributors to buy a license or permit to sell their products in our state. This is done through the West Virginia Agriculture Department. A surcharge would be added to this already existing, once-a-year permit fee for large packages and small packages of pet food — and pet food only. This would not include livestock or poultry feed.
This would be a fairly consistent stream of funding. Of more importance is the fact that this is not a retail or consumer tax on West Virginia citizens. The pet food companies don’t necessarily need to pass this cost on to the consumer as you suggest in your editorial, but even if they did, look what happened in Maine. Maine did the same thing in 2006 and they still receive $100,000 each year from this source. In 2007, it was passed on to the consumer and only increased Maine pet food per family per year by 57 cents. Not a big deal!
The pet food industry sold $119 million of pet food in West Virginia last year. This solution would not cost $1 of taxpayer money nor take one dime from any other group in West Virginia vying for state funds. And it targets the group, pet owners, who contribute to the problem.
New Hampshire taxpayers saved about $3.23 for every dollar the state spent on their state spay-neuter program. Let’s join other states in solving pet overpopulation in West Virginia while assisting our taxpaying population.