H.R. 3501: "Cash For Barkers"

Posted: October 16, 2009 in Bureauacracy, Children, Compassion, Government, Homelessness, Morality, Politics, Poverty

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m just getting older or if I’ve becoming a bit more cynical. Of course, it could just be a combination of the two. Whatever the reason, I’ve come to the conclusion that politics and reality don’t seem to intersect too often – if at all.

Case in point –   

A couple of days ago, I read an article from UPI about one specific piece of legislation.

The bill, H.R. 3501: Humanity and Pets Partnered Through the Years Act – also known as the "HAPPY Act" – was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich) on July 31, 2009.

The bill, if ultimately approved and signed into law by the President, would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 and allow pet owners a tax deduction of up to $3,500 per pet owned.

Don’t misunderstand me. I have nothing against pets. And – although I currently do not own one – I love them.

According to The Humane Society of the United States website, a 2007-2008 National Pet Owners Survey estimated that in the U.S. there were approximately 74.8 million owned dogs and approximately 88.3 million owned cats.

Therefore, there would be 163.1 million pets just in cats and dogs alone. Then of course, there are those folks who prefer birds, or some other form of "pets."

If I’ve done my math correctly, the total amount of "tax-deductions" (just for the cats and dogs) would come out to a little over $570 billion annually!

Contrast that amount with how little is being spent by government to help our nation’s homeless and you can see my assertion that politics and reality don’t mix well together.

I realize that some folks will justify the tax-deduction by saying that we should provide for our pets because they can’t fend for themselves and we therefore have an obligation to care for them. And that is probably a valid line of reasoning.

However, consider that each year millions of our fellow citizens experience homelessness – with approximately one-third of them being children.

Don’t we have the same – if not greater – obligation to care for our nation’s homeless youth?

What was a bit of letdown about H.R. 3501 is that it wasn’t Congressman McCotter’s idea to begin with. It was actually "brought" to the Congressman by actor Robert Davi.

I find it a bit disappointing that so many of our celebrities will lend their names for causes and organizations which advocate for the humane treatment of animals or to feed and house the needy in other countries throughout the world. Yet, those same celebrities seem to have forgotten about those within our very own national borders who are living in on the streets of our cities in "third world" conditions.

It disturbs me greatly when I hear of someone who neglects or abuses an animal.

But, it breaks my heart to its very core when I think of the tens of thousands of children who will have experienced homelessness this year.

How can we heed the barks and meows of our nation’s pets and be moved to do something to alleviate their suffering – yet ignore the sobbing of our nation’s homeless children?

The kind of "Happy Act" I’d like to see passed through the halls of Congress is one which ensures that no child in our nation is homeless.

  1. Evelyn says:

    Hello Michael,

    I read this last week and had to think and attempt to digest this information. It just isn’t digesting. I wonder the why of this deduction? Yes, and for what? What came to mind is what celebrity could write a bill that would give families, friends and extended families (like mine) a deduction for taking in their loved ones and people they could definitely learn to love? The exchange of services for the elderly, childcare—the deductions would help finance symbiotic service of such exchanges.

    It seems to me IF they (the U.S.) deemed to pass such a flagrant deduction in the face of our nations rapidly increasing homeless population, the embarrassment alone should pave the way to passing a bill that served human humane society; expressly to expedite the establishment of needs and services for symbiotic partnerships erradicating first line homelessness, namely children, elderly and women. Sure makes more sense to me but I have my bias. Thanks, Michael

  2. Tallist says:

    HR 3501, HAPPY as it is stupidly being called, is allowing people who have pets to write off $3500, which is about enough for a years supply of food and maybe a few vet visits if you can really stretch it. It’d be just one thing on a list of thousands of expenses we’re capable of already writing off. I understand that animals in america get more support than homeless, but couldnt you have found something frivolous to complain about?

    There are so many other stupid issues that need to be fought that it saddens me to see someone like you, so willing to speak out for the needy, attacking something that would actually help people. Do you know how many low income families have dogs and cats they cant afford to get veterinary care for? You think an animal should have to suffer because a parent wants their child to grow up with a pet but cant afford it.

    It wouldnt be the government giving people money, it’d be the government allowing them to keep some of it. I feel for the homeless but they arent relevant to this.

    Talk about how we help tsunami victims before helping people who have lost homes due to forest fires in our own country. Talk about the dolphins who we urgently need to rescue (via helicopter!) because they decide to take a nice day trip up a river they can easily navigate back out of. Talk about the money PETA earns every year in the name of saving animals which is then used to kill feral cat and stray dogs.

    There are so many idiocies going on everyday that you can focus on and yet you choose something harmless like this?

    That being said you sound like your heart is in the right place, and I respect the way you write and voice you opinions.

    • michael says:


      Since you admit that you “… understand that animals in america get more support than homeless,” I find it a bit disappointing that you do not consider the homeless “… relevant to this.”

      Since over one-million children experience homelessness in this nation over the course of a year, I would consider that to be highly relevant. In addition – it is also relevant that there Veterans in this nation who are literally going to sleep each night on the streets of our cities.

      And, it is precisely because so many consider the homeless to be irrelevant that they are not provided with the types of services which could hep them get off the streets.

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