House approves pet food tax to support spay-neuter programs

Bonita, 6-year-old American Pitbull Terrier mix, was available at the city of Albuquerque’s West Side shelter last month. Shelter staff described her as friendly and ready for a new family. (Courtesy Albuquerque Animal Welfare Department)

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – The state House on Thursday passed a bipartisan proposal that would impose a fee on dog and cat food to help fund spay-neuter programs.

A similar proposal, meanwhile, has reached the floor of the Senate and could be acted on as early as today.

The legislation would also need Gov. Susana Martinez’s approval.

Animal Protection Voters, an advocacy group, and other supporters said the bill would reduce animal suffering and euthanasia by humanely addressing pet overpopulation. It would generate nearly $1.4 million a year, once the fee is fully phased in, for programs that help low-income families spay or neuter their pets.

“This is an important issue, not only in urban areas but especially in the rural communities,” said Rep. Debbie Rodella, an Española Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill.

Supporters estimated the extra fee – levied on companies when they register a line of dog or cat food in New Mexico – would cost families about $1.38 a year for each dog or cat, if the full cost is passed on to consumers. The fee, however, would be phased in over three years.

Opponents questioned the legality of the proposal and whether it should be the state’s responsibility to get involved. Some said the program ought to be funded in the basic operating budget if it’s a real priority, not supported by the imposition of a fee.

“If this body feels like this is an important program and should be funded, would it not be worthy of a general appropriation?” Republican Rep. Larry Scott of Hobbs asked.

House Bill 64 passed 48-19. It’s sponsored by Rodella and fellow Democratic Reps. Carl Trujillo of Santa Fe and Joanne Ferrary of Las Cruces.

On the Senate side, the bill is sponsored by Republican Sen. Gay Kernan of Hobbs.

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