LOS ANGELES, CA (10/07/09) – If pet-loving actors and related consumers have their way, they will be able to deduct as much as $3,500 from their 2010 tax returns for pet care expenses. The idea of a pet tax-exempt initiative was conceived and generated by actor/animal welfare activist Leo Grillo, who has been on a 30-year odyssey rescuing and tending to domesticated animals abandoned in the wilderness.
Grillo is best known for founding D.E.L.T.A. Rescue, the largest animal sanctuary of its type in the world. It is a 150-acre mountaintop refuge where more than 1,500 animals are cared for on a daily basis by a staff of seventy. Grillo said an amendment to the 1986 Internal Revenue Code will help accelerate the nation’s economic recovery and improve the aggregate condition of America’s body and mind.
“Our nation is mentally, emotionally and financially sick,” said Grillo. “We might be listening to the urgent needs of the lonely, the elderly and those afflicted by personal tragedy, but we’re not moving fast enough to help center their expectations and turn the tide for them.”
Grillo’s stout-hearted movement to push for pet tax-exempt status falls on the heels of alarming data. A 2008 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care survey revealed that nearly 600,000 Americans were treated for self-inflicted injuries between the pre-and-recessionary years of 2006 and 2008. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 30,000 Americans each year turn to suicide as their means to an end.
In addition to medical intervention by physical and mental health care authorities, some animal welfare activists, veterinarians, politicians and medical care professionals are of the collective opinion that if more humans could afford the cost of owning a pet, the effect would perhaps have a positive impact on America’s tattered state of mind.
“People are depressed,” Grillo said. “Pets help them to live and are sometimes the only beings that show these people love. So [H.R. 3501] makes pets a necessary part of their lives, not a frivolous commodity. People who live happily and are productive are good for the economy and the country. Therefore, this bill not only saves pets, it saves people.”
D.E.L.T.A. Rescue is located near Glendale, California – a state where more than 2.2 million residents are out of work. A few weeks before Grillo’s bill was introduced, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said, Our wallet is empty, our bank is closed and our credit is dried up.” But it is not political hand-wringing taxpayers want to see, said Grillo, as the number of families suffering from both want and need continues to escalate.
So Grillo shared his proposal with fellow actor Robert Davi, who admits spending a minimum of $4,800 each year caring for his four dogs and cat. “And that’s if there are no medical emergencies,” Davi said.
Davi is best known for his strong character roles in a number of popular feature films. He is currently working on a movie set in Detroit, MI, a sprawling metropolis slammed to its knees by the collapse of its auto-making industry and a 28.9% unemployment rate.
A pet tax-exemption will also encourage owners to take better care of their animals, said Grillo. “Pet owners will have more discretionary income from which to do that, and we think there will be a demand for pets since they will be more affordable,” he added.
The New York headquarters of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals agrees. “Pet care can be expensive,” said Emily Brand, ASPCA’s national spokesperson. “And in these trying economic times, families all over the country have been forced to give up their pets because of financial hardship.” Most owners spend an average of $800 each year caring for their pets.
Brand believes if owners are able to receive tax relief, “more pets [will] get to remain in their loving homes and [not] wind up on the streets or in the already overburdened shelter system,” she said. ASPCA celebrates Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month each October for good reason.
According to latest statistics, more than $2 billion is spent annually by local governments to house and ultimately destroy up to 10 million discarded, yet adoptable, dogs and cats due to a shortage of homes. The Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science estimates that animals with a registered pedigree account for 30% of all animals in shelters. The Doris Day Animal League reports the number of abandoned animals has ascended into the millions nationwide.
In response to Grillo’s quest to help improve the economic standing of an instable and troubled nation, Davi presented Grillo’s proposition to Thaddeus McCotter, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Michigan’s 11th District. McCotter introduced Grillo’s plan of action, which was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means and enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 111th Congress.
The bill was cited as the Humanity and Pets Partnered Through the Years (HAPPY) Act. It is designed to change for the better the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 by allowing a deduction for pet care expenses. McCotter is asking Congress to deliberate on foremost documented facts which show that 63% of all United States households own a pet and that the human-animal bond has been proven to have therapeutic impact upon the emotional and physical well-being of humans.
Pet care expenses include the cost of food, veterinary care and pet insurance. A qualified pet is defined as one that is legally owned, domesticated and alive. Those pets possessed by owners for the intention of research or utilized for a trade or business are excluded.
Grillo’s bill was introduced in the House by McCotter on July 31, 2009.
McCotter believes that a modification to the IRS Code of 1986 will be a simple procedure. He wants the subdivision which relates to additional itemized deductions for individuals altered by re-designating an existing section and inserting a new one.
Grillo hopes the bill will inspire pet owners who have fallen on difficult economic times to start seeking routine wellness checks, emergency attention and follow-up care for their animals.
“As much as eighty percent of them never go to the vet, not once in their lifetime,” said Grillo. “This way, owners will have more discretionary income to take better care of their pets. And we think there will be a demand for pets since they will be more affordable.”
Grillo said he is pleased that Rep. McCotter was the one Davi chose to walk in the legislative measure. “Thaddeus [McCotter] is not the typical politician. He has integrity,” Grillo said. “He has stayed with our ideas, even though there are easier political ways to get something passed and look good to pet owners. Instead, he is with us to get the whole thing passed.”
Grillo added that he is not astonished that the number of Americans supporting H.R. 3501 has entered into the millions within just a few weeks. I do not understand how there could be even one animal organization that is not on our bandwagon on this one, supporting us in our efforts, despite real world competition between us. This one is purely for the animals,” Grillo said. Grillo and Davi co-starred in the feature film Magic. Grillo also starred in the movie Zyzzyx Rd, opposite Katherine Heigl.
D.E.L.T.A. Rescue operates two state-of-the-art hospitals at its private sanctuary, which is also home to Horse Rescue of America – a successful operation Grillo founded as well. Grillo is a world-renowned expert in animal rescue.