Veterinarians mobilize against legislation to tax medical care for pets

Lawmakers attempt to plug budget holes by assessing veterinary medicine

August 3, 2015 (published)
By Jennifer Fiala

Practitioners in North Carolina and Connecticut recently have rallied against legislative attempts to tax veterinary medical care. 


Last month, lobbying efforts in the New England state were successful when state Democrats dumped plans to enact a 6.35 percent sales tax on veterinary visits. Dr. Arnold Goldman, a Connecticut Veterinary Medical Association official, testified before lawmakers that taxing veterinary services would be overly burdensome for owners. He added that taxes aren’t imposed on veterinary care across most of the country. 


“Let’s remain among the most humane of states,” he said

Three states — Hawaii, New Mexico and South Dakota — impose a sales tax on veterinary medical services. Efforts to change that periodically crop up in various state legislatures. Broadening the scope of sales tax to include services such as veterinary care is a way to drum up revenues and patch budget deficits.

The North Carolina General Assembly is the latest to consider doing that as it develops a state budget for the coming fiscal year. 

A provision in the Senate version passed on June 18 would require that the general sales tax rate — currently 4.75 percent — be applied to gross receipts for a variety of services including grooming, boarding, training, veterinary services or “providing other care for an animal.” Counties in North Carolina can tack on additional sales taxes, some as much as 2.75 percent extra. 

The House, however, doesn’t agree with much in the Senate’s budget bill. With the two sides at an impasse, lawmakers say a state shutdown is looming. 

The North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association (NCVMA), meanwhile, is asking veterinarians and pet owners to continue to contact state legislators in an attempt to defeat the sales tax. 

“Your voice can make a difference in preventing this proposal from adversely impacting not only the health and welfare of North Carolina’s animals, but its citizens, as well,” said a statement on the group’s website, which provides a form letter to help pet owners lobby lawmakers against the initiative. 

The letter points out that veterinary medical care often isn’t covered by insurance, and many owners can't afford the tax. The fallout, it says, would be increased pet negligence, abandonment and euthanasia. 


“We already realize that the cost of veterinary care is a major reason that dog and cat owners don’t visit their veterinarian as often as they should,” Dr. Karen Miller, a practice owner in Lincolnton, North Carolina, wrote in an editorial for her local newspaper. “This increases euthanasias, unwanted pregnancies, overpopulation of dogs and cats, pet neglect and abandonment and shelter overcrowding. A tax on these services will only make the problem worse and a snowball effect will ensue.” 

She suggested that taxing veterinary medical care while continuing to exempt human medicine is unfair. 


“Veterinary care is medically necessary for its patients just as human health care is for people,” Miller added. “Veterinary care should not be discriminated against.” 

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