VA Bill Funding a Spay-Neuter Program With A Tax On Pet Food Withdrawn by Sponsor

Virginia Senate Bill 799 would amend:

1) Title 3.2 (Agriculture, Animal Care and Food), Chapter 65 (Comprehensive Animal Care) of the Code of Virginia by adding Section 6504.2 by creating the "Companion Animal Surgical Sterilization Fund;" and

2) Title 58.1 (Taxation), Chapter 17 (Miscellaneous Taxes) of the Code of Virginia by adding Section 1707.1, by imposing a surcharge of $5.00 for each ton of pet food distributed, to be paid into the state treasury and credited to the Companion Animal Surgical Sterilization Fund.

The newly-established fund would reimburse participating veterinarians for the surgical sterilizations they perform on "eligible" cats or dogs. 

A companion animal would be eligible for surgical sterilization at no or reduced cost to its owner if it is:

  • The companion animal of a low-income owner;
  • A feral or free-roaming cat; or
  • In the possession of an animal shelter, pound, other releasing agency, or nonprofit organization and has not been transferred from a jurisdiction outside Virginia into the Commonwealth.

The program would be funded by imposing upon every person in the Commonwealth engaged in business as a manufacturer, wholesaler, or distributor of pet food products an annual Companion Animal Surgical Sterilization Fund surcharge of $5.00 for each ton of pet food distributed

A similar bill (SB 18) was introduced last year but died in committee when Virginia Assembly adjourned in February 2016.

PIJAC Position:
PIJAC supports the intent of this legislation to create a Companion Animal Surgical Sterilization Fund; however we oppose funding it with a surcharge on pet food.  The cost of this surcharge could result in price increases which would disproportionately burden lower-income pet owners.  We believe that there are countless alternative approaches to fund spay-neuter programs that would more fairly spread a cost that should, properly, be borne by the larger society without impacting those persons least in a position to pay.

SB 799 is scheduled to be heard on Thursday, January 19th by the Virginia Senate Committee on Agriculture, Conservation & Natural Resources .