In most states, nonprofit animal shelters and rescue groups are praised for their efforts to find homeless dogs and cats new and loving homes. They are not regarded as ordinary commercial enterprises any more than a food bank or a battered women's shelter.
But here in Missouri, under the new regulations proposed by the Department of Agriculture, nonprofit shelters and rescues will be required to pay an increased license fee and a new tax for each dog or cat they successfully adopt out - as if they were, say, selling cars or lawnmowers, rather than providing an essential service for our communities.
Because of tough economic times and the recent natural disasters in the state, many shelters and rescue groups are already facing dire financial straits. Now these life-saving organizations will be required to pay as much as $2,500 every year to the government. These are the same fees and taxes imposed on for-profit, large-scale, commercial dog breeders.
While it may make good economic sense to impose scaling fees on businesses (in this case, commercial breeding enterprises) based on the volume of puppies sold, in the nonprofit context it makes no sense. As commercial breeders sell more dogs, they make more money. The same is not true for charitable organizations - as more animals move in and out, it requires more labor and more resources.
Shelters and rescues are performing a service for Missouri citizens, and shouldn't be lumped into the same category as commercial puppy mills- that are not working to solve the problem, but are in fact adding to the problem and the cost of government by churning out puppies and flooding the marketplace.
Ironically, while our state's officials are finding ways to strip away incentives for shelters and rescues to find homes for homeless dogs and cats, lawmakers in other states are seeking to do just the opposite. A bill recently introduced by Pennsylvania State Rep. Jesse White, following another in a previous legislative session by California State Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, would provide a tax credit to people who adopt from in-state shelters or rescues.
The Missouri Department of Agriculture has the authority to allow a hardship waiver for this tax or to reduce this license fee. We are hopeful they make the humane decision, and spare Missouri's shelters and rescue groups this additional financial burden.