Daily Times Editorial: Pet food tax plan is a real dog

Farmington Daily Times
The Daily Times

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, we suspect that road goes straight through Santa Fe with an off ramp directly to the Roundhouse.
That’s the only explanation for a poorly thought-out proposal to tax companies that make pet food to help impoverished New Mexicans pay for spay and neutering services.
Democratic state Reps. Carl Trujillo and Debbie Rodella hatched a bill that would stick a big fee increase on “commercial pet food registration fees.”
This isn’t a minor fee hike. It amounts to raising the fee from $2 per label to $100 per label, our colleagues at the The Santa Fe New Mexican recently reported. The tax would raise an estimated $800,000.
We’re not experts on how pet food makes its way to store shelves, but it’s a simple process to glean how the pet food companies affected would respond to the new fees. 
Some might drop the state as a market, limiting choices for consumers. 
Others may hike the cost of pet food, further damaging the financial situation of those impoverished pet owners struggling to feed their pets. This tax scheme wouldn’t rob Peter to pay Paul, it would rob the “ACME Pet Food Company” and help starve Fido if the pet owner is poor.
But, lucky Fido at least gets a free surgery out of the deal that the pet probably doesn’t want, but society needs him or her to have.
Our objections to this tax proposal stem from the concepts of fairness and personal responsibility — whose job is it to pay for spay and neuter fees? 
That’s on the pet owners of New Mexico. It definitely is not the job of people who make pet food. Just because their product is related to pets does not transfer responsibility to pet food companies for whether animals reproduce. That’s like saying they’re going to pay a special tax because some pet owners don’t pick up after their pets.
The same taxation principle could lead to unjust taxes on people who board or breed pets, or make pet shampoo, collars and other products. 
The bill unfairly singles out one industry among the many that serve pet owners, and that’s probably what a smart lawyer will state if this flawed bill passes and lands the state in court.
The 8,000 to 10,000 pets this bill aims to help still need spay and neuter services. We’re not discounting the real need to control the population of unwanted pets in the most humane and efficient way possible.
The hard reality is that owning pets costs money. Although the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are founding American principles, people still have to pay their way. If having a pet is the key to happiness, there’s a cost for that, and the burden is on the pet owner.
Legislators might consider some kind of new incentives for New Mexico veterinarians. How about modest tax breaks or other benefits not now available to those who hold low- or no-cost spay/neuter clinics for the pets of people whose earnings fall within verified low-income groups?
That approach seems more levelheaded than trying to pick the pockets of manufacturers to solve a problem they have nothing to do with.