We support the proposal to introduce the so-called dog tax despite it not being under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Agriculture, but the Ministry of Finance.
Below are the conditions of our endorsement of a dog tax as well as suggestions and clarifications about the effect of such a tax on animal protection:
1. The dog tax is not part of the Animal Protection Act—In the sessions of the Commission for Amendments to the Animal Protection Act, Animal Friends supported the proposal of other members of the Commission to impose a dog tax for the purpose of promoting responsible animal guardianship and preventing their abandonment. The Ministry of Agriculture has agreed that it will forward the proposal to the Ministry of Finance, which is in charge of tax policy. The dog tax cannot be part of the Animal Protection Act, and the Ministry of Finance has not yet drafted a bill on the matter.
2. Tax for dog buyers—Dogs are killed in Croatian shelters every day. Thousands of healthy animals get killed annually. Shelters are packed with dogs, but instead of adopting those in need, many people buy dogs and support their breeding and exploitation. Therefore, only those who buy a dog would pay the tax. If people are willing to pay several thousand kunas for a dog instead of adopting one for free, they should not have a problem paying the tax.
3. Tax for dog breeders and sellers—Everyone breeding, trading, and selling dogs should also pay the tax. At the moment, those who have two "brood bitches" can make a profit, but they do not need to be registered as breeders. Each female dog can have two litters per year with an average of five puppies, which is twenty dogs a year on which an unregistered breeder can make an unrecorded profit. It is absurd that, for example, those who make brandy for personal use must be registered or face a fine of 2,000 to 10,000 kunas, while selling living beings and profiting off their reproduction does not require registration nor, consequently, following the conditions required of breeders. The tax should then naturally also apply to this group.
4. Tax exemption for adopting animals from shelters—Those who have adopted a dog or dogs from a shelter would not have to pay the dog tax because they would have already helped reduce the number of abandoned dogs in the community. Dogs taken in from the street need to be registered with an animal shelter so that the adoption process can go through the shelter. This is important, as it brings order to the system of animal adoption—a found dog has to be registered as an abandoned animal, microchipped, and spayed/neutered. This also encourages local communities that have not done so to establish an animal shelter.
5. Spaying/neutering benefits—Animal Friends advocates benefits for spaying/neutering through a tax reduction. This is facilitated by Lysacan—the registry of rabies vaccination, which also logs spaying/neutering. Spaying/neutering prevents the risk of unwanted puppies.
It is expected that there will be cases of the socially disadvantaged who keep a large number of dogs, but do not have the means to pay the dog tax. These cases will be dealt with individually.
6. Dog tax money for animal protection, spay/neuter programs, and veterinary care—Animal Friends would support the idea of a dog tax only if it were introduced on the state level and if the taxpayers' money would not fill the state coffers, but be used to protect animals. The state could distribute the tax revenue to qualified associations and municipalities to fund spay/neuter programs, veterinary care, animal adoption, and educating citizens on animal rights. As an example, the tax funds would enable the spaying/neutering, microchipping, and vaccination of more than 3,000 dogs in Međimurje county Roma villages, which are suffering and dying from disease and abuse on a daily basis.
7. Symbolic tax amount—It is very important that the tax amount not be high, but symbolic and aimed at improving animal welfare. It would be applicable to those who have chosen to waste money on buying a dog instead of adopting. Animal Friends recommends that the amount be less than the price of vaccination, which would still significantly help other, abandoned dogs. The competent ministry should decide on the specific amount.
Guardianship of a dog or any other animal should be responsible. People who have bought an animal may pay the tax as a way of helping homeless animals who are under the threat of death. Spaying/neutering reduces the population of unwanted dogs who are routinely abandoned in villages, on highways, etc. As a result, citizens will become more responsible when deciding to adopt a dog, guided by their wish to keep a dog and conscious of whether they can provide for its needs. If you cannot set aside 100 kunas per year for a dog tax, you should not be getting a dog, because that will be the least of the financial requirements during the dog’s life. The amount of 100 euros cited in the media may be realistic in countries such as Germany and Austria, but seeing as the situation in Croatia is very different, we do not support such an unrealistically high tax amount. It should be noted that Germany imposed its dog tax not because it needed additional tax revenue, but to bring order to the system of animal adoption.
8. Tax to promote microchipping—The dog tax would improve the implementation of the Animal Protection Act and related regulations and ensure the microchipping of all dogs, which is compulsory in Croatia. At the moment, 30% of dogs have not been microchipped. These dogs can end up in shelters, where most of them will get killed after 60 days. The dog tax would raise the number of microchipped dogs because of tax exemptions on dogs adopted throughout shelters, who are necessarily microchipped. It would also elevate care for dogs to a higher level. At the moment, the regulations on microchipping are not adequately enforced, which urged Animal Friends to send inquiries to all cities and municipalities about whether they have acquired the microchip and whether they monitor the microchipping of dogs. The responses have been devastating.
9. Dog tax in other European countries—The proposition which we have endorsed emphasized that some other European countries, such as Germany and Austria, have introduced a similar tax in order to promote responsible animal care and prevent animal abandonment. We should adopt the good practices of other countries, but we should also work on developing a new and improved approach by learning from their mistakes to create a system conducive to the welfare of animal and people.
When drafting the dog tax, every detail needs attention to ensure the policy will not lose the prospective positive changes it would bring to humans and animals.
10. Imposition of a cat tax, which has been raised in the media, would be impossible because there is no legal requirement to microchip cats. While our association advocates the microchipping of cats, the imposition of a cat tax is not imminent. There is no such tax in other countries.
The dog tax would hopefully reduce the number of purchased dogs and promote adoption and spaying/neutering. It would be a tremendous help to animal rescue organizations. Our association believes that the dog tax would result in stricter controls over microchipping and vaccination, with the end goal of stopping the abandonment and killing of dogs and promoting responsible dog guardianship.
Animal Friends originally proposed this amendment to the Animal Protection Act in 2015/2016.
Published: August-November 2016.