Pet-food tax could have dismal results
By Antonio De Jesús Aguado
The new year brought with it new taxes, among them a 16 percent rise in the price of pet food. That hike in prices could lead to an increase in the number of abandoned pets, according to the organizations that work to protect cats and dogs in San Miguel de Allende. Those organizations do not have room to shelter more animals in their facilities.
On September 2013, the president of the Republic proposed a reform in the tax law that implemented a 16 percent IVA (value-added tax) on processed food for pets, arguing that this kind of food was not for human consumption and those who have pets would have the money to pay the new tax imposed in those products. Previously, federal legislator Ricardo Villarreal expressed his concern to Atención about this matter, suggesting the possibility that some people who own pets would replace the food specially formulated for pets with food meant for human consumption, which is not taxed. The tax reform was approved on October 31 and went into effect on January 1 of this year. A tax was also imposed on the legal buying and selling of pets.
Milenio states in an article that in 2011 the Commission of Environment and Natural Resources of the Federal Congress
reported that in Mexico there were more than 23 million cats and dogs—one for every six inhabitants—but that only 30 percent of them had a home. The others were cataloged as strays. Other articles state that according to the Mexican Association of Pet Food Producers more than 250,000 to 250,000 more dogs and cats would join this group because of the rise in the price of pet food.
In San Miguel de Allende, said the head of the Ecology Department, Víctor Manuel Velázquez, from September to December 2013 more than 423 street dogs were captured. Of those, 39 were adopted, 37 were recovered by their owners and the others were put to sleep with pentobarbital. Velázquez said that the monthly average number of captured street dogs is 60.
About the impact of the new tax on pet food the director said that it would be great, and because there is a lack of culture of caring for animals here the number of street dogs could increase. The director suggested that if the cost of food is prohibitive owners could feed their pets leftovers combined with broth made with poultry or animal bones so it would be more attractive to the dog or cat. Velázquez also recommended that if people cannot feed their pets they should give them to a friend or, as a second choice, look for a shelter that would take them. The last option, he said, would be euthanasia, which could be provided by the Ecology Department for free.
Velázquez highlighted that the increase in pet food costs would not have an impact on the annual budget that his department has for the municipal animal shelter, but it is currently full and there is no room for more animals. For that reason, captured, nonagressive animals can be sheltered for five days and if nobody adopts them they are euthanized. Aggressive dogs are kept for 10 days, under the supervision of the Sanitary Jurisdiction. The killed animals are taken to a reserved space in the landfill.
No room in the shelters
The civil association Amigos de Animales was begun in 2001 to curtail the administration’s routine practice of killing street dogs. The association also performs low-cost spaying and neutering of animals in the urban and rural areas and, although they are not in agreement with the killing of animals, they provide pentobarbital to the Ecology Department to allow the animals to have a decent death. According to Arno Knaumann, president of the organization, in the past the local government used to electrocute the animals, and clandestinely they also used to poison street dogs. Knaumann said that currently his organization has 20 dogs available for adoption, and they will stay in the shelter until they are adopted. If they are not, then Knaumann will keep them, but if that happens there will not be room for more animals.
About the new IVA tax on pet food Knaumann said that as a result some pets might not be fed, and he suggested neutering or spaying to avoid the growing number of animals that could potentially be abandoned on the streets. In a clinic located in Colonia San Rafael the organization offers neutering and spaying at a cost of 200 pesos, and in the rural communities veterinarians sterilize animals in a traveling clinic for 50 pesos.
The 16 percent tax is already affecting Knaumann, who has to spend 400 more pesos weekly to feed his 70 dogs, in addition to 16 more at Amigos de Animales that he feeds with his own money. To adopt a pet from this organization—which is very easy—contact Arno at 415-109-6817 or 120-0735.
Amigos de Animales also offers educational programs in rural areas on how to take care of pets. Vivien Trillen is in charge of that. She joined Amigos de Animales in 2001 and since then has visited kindergartens, where she gathers the teachers, students and parents to explain the importance of taking care of and loving their animals; she also talks about the benefits of sterilizing pets. The organization also hands out an educational book to children.
Lynn Weisberg from the Sociedad Protectora de Animales (SPA) said that they are certainly concerned about the impact of the new tax on pet food. From an organizational standpoint, she said, that will also increase their costs by 16 percent, and because they rely on donations, it would be difficult to keep their operational costs down. Weisberg said that this pet food tax will also make it more difficult for pet owners—especially those with multiple pets—to feed their animals, “and if they can’t afford to buy the pet food they need, we are concerned that some pets may not get enough food, or not get the right food,” she said.
The president of the SPA also expressed that if the pets do not receive the proper food they will develop health problems that could lead to the need for a veterinarian, and the cost, she remarked, to some families may be prohibitive. She also is concerned that if families with pets cannot afford to feed them there may well be an increase in the number of abandoned animals in the streets of the city.
Weisberg also highlighted that because the SPA is a no-kill shelter it is almost always full, and there is a waiting list. If people cannot afford to pay for an animal’s food, there will be fewer adoptions, which means that fewer animals could be taken into the shelter because there will not be available cages. “It is a vicious cycle,” she remarked. She finished by saying that the health benefits of pet ownership are well documented, and that it is a shame pet food is now classified as a “luxury” item.
Phylis Colier from Santuario para Animales said that the tax hike on dog and cat food has already affected families with low incomes. “A friend reported that her neighbor came knocking on her door and asked if she would take her dog, simply because she was afraid that she will not be able to feed her,” commented Colier.
For Santuario de Animales, which is about to open a no-kill shelter, this new tax causes a great impact because they also rely on donations, so it would affect their small budget. Colier anticipated fewer donations because people will be less able to afford the extra cost of the food. “So, with the problem of so many street dogs in San Miguel desperately needing homes, this tax hike is the last thing animal groups need,” she said.