The legislature has again taken up the issue of taxing pet food to create a fund to help pay for spays and neuters in animal shelters around the state. Such a fund and program is badly needed in New Mexico and especially in Rio Arriba County.

    This was former state representative Carl Trujillo’s baby before he lost his seat in 2018. He moved it an admirable distance in the 2017 session, educated fellow legislators and raised some solid awareness.

    Sen. Jacob Candelaria, (D-Bernalillo) is sponsoring the bill this year and it’s slowly winding its way through three (not good) committees. Having been ruled germane and receiving a pass in Senate Public Affairs Committee, it now sits in Senate Finance Committee. It is not yet on the calendar.

    The bill places a tax on manufacturers that sell pet food or pet treats in the state in the form of an annual fee. The Department of Agriculture would collect the initial $50 fee per label in 2021. That fee would increase to $75 in 2022 and $100 in 2023. Budget analysts state there are 13,300 pet food and pet treat labels registered in New Mexico.

    The collection would create an estimated $715,000 its first year, growing to $1.4 million in its third year.

    The collected fee would be distributed to Board of Veterinary Medicine (4 percent), Department of Agriculture (3 percent) and the Animal Care and Facility Fund (93 percent).

    The Board oversees animal shelters in the state and would ensure proper spending. The Department would administer the fund. Of course the Animal Care and Facility Fund would pay for the spay and neuter programs.

    There are many requirements listed in the bill. Only those in need receive the free services. Those requirements are outlined in the bill. Licenses and certificates must be issued to clinics and follow up performed. Animal shelters must be inspected and complaints and misconduct must be addressed. Standards and curricula must be met, as well as continuing education.

    Best of all, the group must report to the legislature annually. This isn’t a free ride without strings.

    There’s a lot to like here. We have a huge “animal at large” problem in this state and especially in rural areas such as Rio Arriba County.

    We currently address the unwanted pet problem through euthanasia. Many shelters, such as ours in Española, do a great job finding homes for kittens and puppies. Their foster program is always bursting at the seams.

    While many donors in Los Alamos and Santa Fe fund most of the free spay and neuter clinics at the Española shelter, there just aren’t enough personnel, nor funds to pay them. Senate Bill 57 would address that.

    Yes, the cost of these fees would be passed on to pet food and pet treat customers. We think they will happily hand over a few pennies more at the register to support such a humane and badly needed program.

    We ask Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, to get this bill through his Senate Finance Committee and onto the Senate floor immediately. This is a smart way to address a serious problem, without tapping into the general fund and have all taxpayers pay for a minority of bad animal owners’ despicable behavior.

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