Legislation to create the first-in-the-nation tax credit for adopting a shelter pet came within a hair's breadth of passing the Pennsylvania state House on Tuesday.
The bill, offered as an amendment to tax code legislation by Rep. Jesse White (D., Allegheny), was narrowly defeated 97-96.
The legislation would give individuals or families who adopt a pet from a recognized shelter a $300 tax credit.
"The point was to encourage adoption and discourage puppy mills and also ease the burden on shelters," said White, who has two dogs and a cat and was looking for animal-friendly legislation to sponsor.
The bill (HB 1765) comes at a time when state support for shelters is fast disappearing. Shelter grants have been cut in half and the Department of Agriculture says it is looking at eliminating the grants entirely. At the same time the state reduced the amount it is providing shelters for every stray dog it takes in from $30 to $25 - not even enough to provide minimal vet care for an incoming animal.
White said he attached his bill as an amendment to another bill being considered on the House floor Tuesday because he says Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, chairman of the House Finance Committee where his bill was assigned, has shown no willingness to move it through the committee.
The bill would cap the credit at $7.5 million or the equivalent of 25,000 adoptions. Those adopting pets would only get credit for one pet a year, a provision inserted to prevent scam artists from adopting multiple pets and then abandoning them or otherwise harming them. In addition, no one who has been convicted of animal cruelty would be eligible to receive the credit.
"The vote was incredibly important as it shows just how much Pennsylvanian’s care about animals as measured by the calls that flooded into the legislature on just hours notice," said Sarah Speed, state director of the Humane Society of the United States. "We get few opportunities to consider bills that will improve the lives of animals and failing by only one vote shows that every vote counts. Tragically this bill could have helped find homes for animals who are in our already overburdened shelters."
But the roll call gives animal welfare advocates a good picture of who in the legislature supports their causes.
All the House Democrats voted for the bill except Rep. Greg Vitali of Delaware County.
Among the House Republicans who supported the bill were: Reps., Nicholas Micozzie and Nick Micarelli of Delaware County, Rep. Curt Schroder of Chester County and Rep. Todd Stephens of Montgomery County.
Republicans who voted against the bill from the southeast included Reps.Gene DiGirolamo, Paul Clymer, Bernie O'Neill, Marguerite Quinn and Katharine Watson of Bucks County; Reps. Mike Vereb, Robert Godshall, Thomas Quigley and Kate Harper of Montgomery County; Rep. Bill Adolph of Delaware County; Reps. Tim Hennessey, Thomas Killion, Chris Ross, Dan Truitt and Stephen Barrar of Chester' and Rep. John Taylor of Philadelphia.
Speed says she is heartened by the narrowness of the defeat.
"This proves that the votes are there to pass this legislation as a free standing bill," she said.