WATERVILLE – Dog and cat breeders are unhappy about a new $25 tax on the sale of puppies and kittens, saying it imposes an additional burden on legitimate dealers. The tax takes effect in October.
The state imposed the levy to pay for spaying and neutering programs for dogs and cats that belong to low-income Mainers.
The new fee could raise as much as $34,000 a year, most of it from puppy sales, according to Susan Hall of Spay Maine, a group that supports the tax. Hall said the tax will help reduce suffering by animals. While breeders acknowledge a problem with abandoned and unwanted animals, they say the tax is another expense they can ill-afford.
“We’ve got expenses coming out of our ears,” said Donna Foss, who breeds Shih Tzus in Athens. “Now there’s this.”
Some breeders say they are already put at a disadvantage by competitors who fail to register their businesses with the state and don’t collect or turn in sales taxes on the animals they sell.
They say the “backyard breeders” and “puppy mills” probably won’t pay the new fees either, putting legitimate breeders at a further disadvantage.
“We’re one of the smallest businesses you’re going to find, and they’re going after us,” said John St. Hilaire, who breeds golden retrievers in Monmouth. “They call it a surcharge, but to me it’s a tax. Call an apple an apple.”
The tax applies to breeders and pet stores, not to owners of dogs or cats that have puppies or kittens unexpectedly. The tax is not charged on spayed or neutered pets, but that’s of little consolation to breeders, who say animals that can’t reproduce are less valuable.
“I understand that the breeders are upset, but in the long run, this is going to be best for the animals and the taxpayers of Maine,” said Norma Worley, director of the state Animal Welfare Program.