Two weeks ago, Linda posted a terrific, detailed post on the Camp hearings in the House Ways and Means Committee–which is not known for kumbaya, despite the chairman’s surname–on the possibility of ending or curtailing the tax deduction for charitable donations. The hearings apparently were surprisingly serious in tone and nature, from what I could tell from Linda’s reporting, and Linda’s analysis, commentary and recommendations were helpful. For my part, I posted the following comment in the Comments thread to her post:
Most people have one or two causes that they care deeply about, and one of mine is animal rescue. It’s not happenstance that virtually every time I go onto the web, an ASPCA ad or two appears on the page–including on AB. I mention this because animal rescue is not something that is funded at all by federal tax money, so additional tax revenues wouldn’t make up for lost charitable donations. Not directly, anyway.
But I doubt that most people who donate to animal-rescue nonprofits do it with even a moment’s thought to the tax deduction. I suspect that most people who donate are not wealthy, and a good percentage of them don’t itemize their tax returns. But among those who are wealthy, does the tax deduction make a difference in how much they donate? In most cases, I doubt it.
About two years ago, an obviously wealthy Detroit resident donated $1 million to fund a huge new no-kill animal shelter in Detroit–a city that has thousands of strays at any given time. Undoubtedly, he was happy to receive the tax deduction; the gift was announced during the last week of December. But surely he didn’t give the gift in order to get the deduction; he’s active in the most important part of what the shelter does: finding the stray dogs and bringing them to the shelter, as well as in the establishment of the shelter itself, such as buying and renovating a huge empty warehouse for it. If he could have afforded to donate the full $1 million irrespective of the tax deduction, he would have, if the deduction had not been available. I don’t know whether he could or not.
But then there is another side of the lost revenue, regarding, at least, animal rescue. Last fall, I got a call on my cellphone from a number that I didn’t recognize. When I answered, a young woman on the other end said something like, “I’m so-and-so, at such-and-such. Your dog is ready, but I’m calling about your Visa card, and …” I cut her off, and said, “You’re who, from where, and you’re calling about what??” She took a moment to respond, and then said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I must have the wrong number.” About 20 minutes later, she called back. Apologetically, she read the phone number and asked whether I had dropped off a dog that morning to be groomed. I said I hadn’t. In a sad tone of voice, she apologized for the call.
Obviously, someone who could no longer afford to care for his or her dog, but who was unwilling to take the dog to shelter, much less to simply dump the dog somewhere outside, had decided to take the dog to a groomer and provide false contact information and a no-longer-good Visa card, in the hope that the groomer would find a good home for the dog. I don’t know whether the person was someone who knew me and had my phone number, or instead just picked my number randomly.
But a decent social safety net, rather than one that is fraying–especially one that is reduced rather than increased during a recession or very slow employment and wage growth–does have an effect, if an indirect one, on animal rescue efforts. Both in the number of animals that need to be rescued and in the number people who can afford to rescue one.
Kudos to Linda for this terrific post.
I’ll indulge this interest of mine further here, by posting a link to a news article today on Yahoo! News called “Food Stamps … For Pets?” The article reports:
A new donation-based program called Pet Food Stamps
aims to provide food stamps for pets of low-income families and for food stamp recipients who otherwise could not afford to feed their pets, reported ABC affiliate KVIA in Las Cruces, N.M.
Based in New York, the program is open to anyone in the United States. More than 45,000 pets have already been signed up in the past two weeks, according to the program’s founder and executive director Marc Okon. Once need and income is verified, the families will receive pet food each month from pet food retailer Pet Food Direct
for a six-month period.
The story is reported elsewhere, too, but the photo in the Yahoo! article sort of cut to my heart. Detroit and a couple of its close-in suburbs are known for their large population of pit bulls, the breed shown in the photo. Many, many are strays. And anyone who thinks pit bulls are likely to be mean and aggressive hasn’t met the sweetheart that I spend a delightful hour or so last fall playing with–a stray found by a friend’s neighbor the day before, and taken to a wonderful shelter to be examined by a vet and then placed in a loving home. She looked exactly like the white doggie in the photo, except that she was full-grown.
Anyway … anyone who knows of a pet owner who is struggling financially and may have to give up the pet because of that, please pass along the word about this organization.
Thanks. This is important, to a lot of animals, and to a lot of people.