A Four-Figure Tax Break For A Four-Legged Friend? Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) has sponsored a bill that would allow pet owners to deduct animal care expenses — up to $3,500 a year — from their taxes. He says the economy has forced people to give up their pets, and anything that puts cash back into Americans' hands is a good thing.
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A Four-Figure Tax Break For A Four-Legged Friend?

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A Four-Figure Tax Break For A Four-Legged Friend?

A Four-Figure Tax Break For A Four-Legged Friend?

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

There is a new bill before Congress called the HAPPY Act. So what does HAPPY stand for?

Representative THADDEUS MCCOTTER (Republic, Michigan): Humans and Pets Partnering Through the Years.

SIEGEL: Humans and Pets Partnering Through the Years. That was Michigan Republican Thaddeus McCotter, who is the primary sponsor of this bill.

NPR's Andrea Seabrook has the story.

ANDREA SEABROOK: The HAPPY Act would allow taxpayers to deduct the money they spend on the care of their pets, up to $3,500 a year. Congressman Thaddeus McCotter introduced the bill. He declined to speak to NPR for this story, saying he is focused on more pressing legislation right now. But he did talk to DoggyTV, a YouTube channel.

Ms. MISSY WOODWARD (Animal Advocate): We're here to talk about a new bill he's introduced, which is very interesting, called the HAPPY Act. Hello, Congressman, thanks for coming.

Rep. MCCOTTER: Thanks for having me.

SEABROOK: Animal advocate Missy Woodward on the mic there. McCotter explained his motivations for introducing the tax deduction for pets.

Rep. MCCOTTER: Well, we've had reports about people having to turn in pets because of the economic recession. And when you think about the relationship between people and the pets and the humane way that it helps people think, it seemed to me to be a good idea, and we dropped it in.

SEABROOK: Dropped it in to the congressional hopper, that is. Now, 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 most estimates. That means there could be a lot of support for this.

Ms. BETH SELBY: Are you kidding?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SELBY: Pets are an option. You know, when you take on a pet, you take on their care.

SEABROOK: Hmm. Not so popular with Beth Selby, up from Georgia to visit Washington. Also strolling the National Mall are Pablo Otera and Tom James from Pennsylvania.

Mr. TOM JAMES: I'm sort of on the fence with this one.

Mr. PABLO OTERA: Oh, come on. I spent $4,000 on Petey with his leg.

SEABROOK: Petey is Otera's dog.

Mr. OTERA: He fell off my truck, he had a surgery, needed therapy, needed a whole bunch of stuff. That's $4,000 I could've deduct out from my taxes. Oh, hell yeah. And food, too.

SEABROOK: You can almost see the adding machine in Otera's head. And that's part of the point, Congressman McCotter told DoggyTV, that anything that puts cash back in Americans' hands during the economic crisis is a good thing. And if it gathers enough support, he says, it could actually go somewhere.

Rep. MCCOTTER: Obviously, health care is on the front burner. But when this time comes, if people are letting their members know they like it, would like to see them get behind it, and I think that that will be helpful in this instance.

SEABROOK: But until there is a public outcry of support, or perhaps a meow or woof, it's unclear how doggedly the congressman will pursue the HAPPY Act.

Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, Washington.

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