ANNAPOLIS — Forget an expensive suit or a flashy watch — on Thursday, advocates in Annapolis were wearing fur.
They were also sniffing the ground and trailing leashes.
The two advocates in question, beagles named Dover and Scout, visited State Circle to promote legislation sponsored by their owner, state Sen. Michael Hough. The bill would provide tax credits of up to $100 for each dog or cat adopted from an animal shelter or rescue facility.
Hough and Delegate Glen Glass, who is supporting the bill on the House side, say the credits would defray some of the costs of bringing a new pet into the home and draw more attention to animal adoption.
“I think it just spreads the word that ‘Hey, there’s this tax credit that will be available. Why don’t you go to the shelter and take a look and get a dog or cat for your family?’” said Hough, R-District 4.
Both of Hough’s beagles are adopted, he said. He got Scout from Frederick County’s animal shelter about 12 years ago as a gift for his wife on their first anniversary. They adopted Dover a few days ago from a Carroll County shelter, said Hough’s wife, JoeyLynn Hough.
The credit that Hough is suggesting would be good only for the year of the adoption, although Glass said he’d like to see the benefit expanded so pet owners could claim it year after year.
The ultimate goal is to reduce the number of dogs and cats that are euthanized, Hough said. Each year, about 38,400 dogs and 57,600 cats enter animal shelters around the state, according to an informal survey by the Professional Animal Workers of Maryland. The survey also found that 10,700 dogs and 34,900 cats are euthanized on an annual basis.
Chloe Waterman, a representative of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, pointed out that only 29 percent of dogs and cats are adopted from shelters and rescues.
Using the tax credit, “we can really incentivize a lot more people to adopt animals, we’ll have to euthanize less animals in shelters and we’ll ultimately save taxpayer money on animal control services,” said Waterman, senior manager of state legislative strategy for the ASPCA.
Last year, polling data suggested that the public was also behind the tax credit proposal. A Goucher poll from March 2014 showed that 65 percent of respondents expressed support for $100 tax breaks for pet adoptions. Only 28 percent indicated they would oppose the measure.
However, in a challenging fiscal climate, the proposal is likely in for an uphill battle. The state would forgo a “significant amount” of revenue each year if the legislation passes, according to a state analysis.
On Thursday, the chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee said there are a number of tax credit proposals competing for his panel’s approval this year.
While Sen. Edward Kasemeyer, D-Baltimore and Howard, said the fate of Hough’s bill “hasn’t been decided,” he added that “this is probably something that is low in the priorities.”
The bill has also hit roadblocks in past years. This is the fourth legislative session running that Glass, R-Harford, has sponsored the bill, and it has died in committee each time.
But the pet adoption bill requires a relatively small sacrifice from the state compared with other tax credits, Hough and Waterman assert.
The state has provided about $62.5 million in film tax credits from fiscal 2012 to 2016, according to a recent legislative analysis. State and local governments have seen only a fraction of this amount come back in the form of revenue from increased economic activity.