Republican Rep. Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan has thrown pet owners a bone by sponsoring a bill that would allow them to deduct animal care expenses from their taxes.
The bill, Humanity and Pets Partnered Through the Years, or "HAPPY Act," would allow taxpayers to deduct up to $3,500 a year. McCotter declined to speak to NPR, saying he is focused on more pressing legislation, but he did explain his motivation for the tax break on DoggyTV, a YouTube channel.
"Well, we've had reports of people having to turn in pets because of the economic recession," he said. "And when you think about the relationship between people and pets and the humane way that it helps people think, it seemed to me to be a good idea, and we dropped it in" to the congressional hopper.
To be sure, there are thousands of bills introduced every year, and most of them go nowhere. Then again, this bill has a pretty large target constituency: More than half of Americans own pets, by many estimations. That means there could be a lot of support for McCotter's proposal.
"Are you kidding?" said Beth Selby, a visitor to the National Mall from Georgia, when asked about the proposed tax break. "Pets are an option. You know, when you take on a pet, you take on their care."
Tom James from Pennsylvania was uncertain. "I'm sort of on the fence with this one." But Pablo Otera, also from Pennsylvania, said, "Hell, yeah." He said he recently spent $4,000 on his dog, Petey.
"He fell off my truck, needed surgery, needed therapy, needed a whole bunch of stuff," Otera said. "That's $4,000 I could have deducted from my taxes ... and food, too!"
You could almost see the adding machine in Otera's head. And that's part of the point, McCotter told DoggyTV: Anything that puts cash back in Americans' hands during the economic crisis is a good thing. If the bill gathers enough support, he says, it could actually go somewhere.
"Obviously, health care is on the front burner," McCotter said. "But when the time comes, if people are letting their members know they like it, they'd like to see them get behind it, I think that will be helpful in this instance."
But until there is a public outcry of support, it's unclear how doggedly the congressman will pursue the HAPPY Act.