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Just say no to unaffordable spending
Tom Purcell
Tom Purcell

I wish I had a change of heart, but I still can’t support it.

Back in 2009, long before I got my beloved 11-month-old puppy, Thurber, I was critical of a proposed federal bill that sought tax deductions for pet owners.

According to the Washington Times, Robert Davi, a tough-guy Hollywood actor, and then Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, R-Mich., attempted something back then that tough guys and conservative Republicans don’t often do.

They collaborated to get a bill — the Humanity and Pets Partnered Through the Years (HAPPY) Act — to the floor of the U.S. House that sought a $3,500 annual tax deduction for pet expenses.

To be sure, pet care has gotten expensive.

People magazine reports that the average pet owner spends $4,500 per year just to meet their pet’s basic needs.

That doesn’t cover many unexpected costs, such as the two pairs of prescription glasses, two pairs of leather shoes and two very nice wool rugs Thurber chewed up (he exploded the blue ink in a pen on one rug and just ate a hole in the other).

He’s gotten much better behaved as the months have gone by, but I am in constant risk of the “Labrosecond,” challenge, the time it takes for whatever I accidentally drop to end up in his jaws.

I’m in the process of purchasing health insurance for Thurber — yes, you read that right. Pet owners like me are getting it for good reason.

Labs have been known to eat entire socks, which require surgical removal, which costs upwards of $5,000.

I love my dog. And if he ever has any kind of serious health emergency, I’m going to do everything I can, regardless of cost, to restore him to excellent health.

In 2009 Davi argued that since pets are good for us — they bring down our blood pressure and lift our spirits — a tax deduction for their care would be good for everyone.

He argued that the deduction would be good for the economy because people would spend more on their pets and fewer people would have to give their pets to animal shelters during recessions.

I argued in 2009 that our federal tax code is an incredible mess precisely because well-intentioned people like Davi have been getting special breaks added in by congress members.

Our emotions, skillfully exploited by politicians, have brought us all kinds of government social programs that have bloated the budget and exploded the deficit.

I argued a dozen years ago that we had to get our spending and debt back in order, but since then our reckless government — both Republicans and Democrats — has more than doubled our debt from $12 trillion to just under $29 trillion.

Now that pet ownership has soared during the COVID pandemic, spending on pets is at an all-time high.

The HAPPY Act didn’t become law in 2009, though, as Forbes reports, some tax deductions are available to some pet owners, such as those who have emotional support animals or earn income from pets with names like Lassie.

But as much as I’d love to have a sweet $3,500 tax deduction to offset the costs of caring for my best buddy, Thurber, I still could never support the idea.

If current legislators don’t stop imposing well-meaning, feel-good ideas on our bloated budget, someone should bop them upside their heads with a rolled-up newspaper.

Tom Purcell is an author and humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Email him at