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Archive for September, 2009

Are Tax Deductions for Pet Care Expenses Coming?

September 23rd, 2009 5 comments

Will Dog Owners Soon be Able to Deduct Pet Care Expenses?

U.S. Representative Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) has introduced the Humanity and Pets Partnered Through the Years (“HAPPY”) Act – H.R. 3501.  If passed, the HAPPY Act would amend the IRS Code to allow a deduction for pet care expenses.

HAPPY Act Would Give Pet Owners a Tax Deduction for Certain Expenses

The HAPPY Act, H.R. 3501, Would Help Families by Allowing a Tax Deduction for Pet Care Expenses

The HAPPY Act, H.R. 3501, Would Help Families by Allowing a Tax Deduction for Pet Care Expenses

H.R. 3501, if passed, would give an individual taxpayer an allowable deduction for the amount of the taxpayer’s “qualified pet care expenses” for any “qualified pet.”  Qualified pet care expenses would include “amounts paid in connection with providing care” for the pet, including veterinary care.  Expenses associated with acquiring the pet would not be deductible, however.

The maximum allowable deduction under the proposed legislation would be $3,500.

A “qualified pet” is defined in the bill as any “legally owned, domesticated, live animal.”  Animals used for research or in connection with a trade or business will not be considered qualified pets.

HAPPY Act Would Encourage Responsible Pet Ownership

Most pet owners want to do the best they can for their furry family members.  But with pet care costs rising all the time, providing routine care such as regular heart worm medication and flea and tick preventatives can be a financial burden.  Add in the cost of veterinary care for illnesses, and some families have a difficult time giving their pets everything they need.

The HAPPY Act would encourage responsible pet ownership by allowing pet owners a tax deduction of up to $3,500 for expenses associated with caring for their pets, including veterinary care.

The ASPCA Supports H.R. 3501

The ASPCA has issued an “Advocacy Alert” asking animal advocates to support the HAPPY Act, H.R. 3501, by contacting their U.S. representative and urging him or her to support and cosponsor the bill.

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DNA Tests for Mixed Breed Dogs

September 18th, 2009 2 comments

Should You Have Genetic Testing Done on Your Mixed Breed Dog?

So you’ve adopted a cute little mutt from the local animal shelter.  Wonderful!  You’ve not only saved a life, you’ve also robbed a puppy mill of profit by adopting rather than purchasing a dog from a pet shop.

You think your new family member might be a Golden Retriever crossed with a German Shepherd, with perhaps a little Boxer tossed in.  Many people who adopt mixed breed dogs are turning to DNA test kits to try and determine the genetic heritage of their dogs.

Why Have Dog DNA Testing Done?

Certain dog breeds may be prone to specific health problems.  If the owner knows the dog’s ancestry, perhaps measures can be taken to ensure the dog a longer, healthier life.

DNA Testing May Explain Some of Your Dog's Behaviors

DNA Testing May Explain Some of Your Dog's Behaviors

Additionally, some behavioral traits are breed-specific.  DNA testing may help explain some behaviors in your dog, such as digging, herding and barking.  Knowing your dog’s genetic background may help with fashioning the best routine for training, exercise and discipline.

Finally, finding out your dog’s genetic ancestry may have other consequences, for better or worse.  An example is a recent story from Salina, Kansas about a woman whose mixed breed dog was picked up by animal control officers after it got loose.  The dog appeared to have a lot of pit bull in its ancestry.  Since 2005, the town has banned the unregistered ownership of pit bulls and mixed breeds that are predominantly pit bulls.

DNA testing proved that the dog was not predominantly pit bull, and the owner was permitted to keep her dog.  Of course, DNA testing could very well lead to the opposite outcome if it proves a dog is predominantly a banned breed.

What Dog DNA Tests are Available?

There are at least three main dog DNA tests on the market.  One test offers blood based DNA sampling that is performed by your veterinarian; the others offer at-home cheek swab sampling that you send back and await the results.

Wisdom Panel™ MX

Wisdom Panel™ MX by Mars Veterinary™ offers:

  • Blood based DNA sampling conducted by a veterinarian.
  • Analyzes DNA back to the dog’s great-grandparent level.
  • Tests for at least 157 breeds.
  • Consumers receive results in two to three weeks.
  • Cost is about $120 to $170 per dog.

Wisdom Panel™ Insights is another product offered by Mars Veterinary™.  This DNA kit features:

  • Do-it-yourself cheek swab DNA test kit.
  • Tests for more than 170 breeds, “the largest database on the market,” according to company advertising.
  • Consumers receive results in approximately three weeks.
  • Cost is about $80 per dog.

Canine Heritage® Breed Test

The Canine Heritage® Breed Test consists of:

  • Do-it-yourself cheek swab DNA test kit.
  • Tests for approximately 108 breeds.
  • Consumers receive a Certificate of DNA Breed Analysis listing the dog’s primary, secondary and “in the mix” breeds.
  • Consumers receive test results in four to six weeks.
  • Cost is $100 to $120 per dog.

BioPet DNA Dog Breed Identification

BioPet DNA Dog Breed Identification kits from BioPet Vet Lab feature:

Several Dog DNA Tests are Available

Several Dog DNA Tests are Available

  • Do-it-yourself cheek swab DNA test kit.
  • Tests for 62 breeds.
  • Issues results of detected breeds in decreasing order.
  • Consumers receive results in about two weeks.
  • Cost is about $60 per dog.

What to Expect from Dog DNA Testing

The science of genetics is complex.  The fact that your mixed breed dog appears to have characteristics of a certain breed does not necessarily mean that breed is predominant in your dog.  Most of the DNA test kits do not test to determine if your dog is a purebred.

If numerous generations of your mixed breed dog’s ancestors were also mixed breed dogs (that is, if your dog has no recent pedigree ancestors), the results of the DNA test may be inconclusive.  Additionally, the DNA tests available on the market test for a limited number of recognized breeds.  If your dog’s ancestry is predominantly from a breed that is not included in the test, your results will be inconclusive.

Although there might be sound reasons for wanting to know your dog’s genetic heritage, in the end, you may not be able to find out with any degree of certainty.  Moreover, if you have concerns about your dog’s health issues or behavior, the best place to start is by discussing those concerns with your veterinarian.

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Categories: Dog Behavior, Dog Health

Puppy Mill Awareness Day is Saturday Sept. 19

September 17th, 2009 4 comments

Saturday, September 19 has been set aside as Puppy Mill Awareness Day, and events are planned in England, Ireland and across the United States to draw attention to the plight of animals who are victims of puppy mill abuses.

Puppy Mills are a Growing Problem Everywhere

Puppy mills (called puppy farms in some countries) are a growing problem.  The profits associated with breeding large numbers of popular dog breeds are too tempting for some unscrupulous and greedy people to resist.  The ASPCA defines a puppy mill as a “large-scale commercial dog breeding operation where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs.”

The Focus is on Profit at Puppy Mills

Because the focus at puppy mills is on profit, little care is given to producing healthy puppies.  Rather, the emphasis is on producing quantities of puppies, regardless of the problems involved.  As a result, puppy mill dogs are over-bred and inbred, leading to genetic abnormalities and a range of health problems.

Moreover, breeding dogs are often subjected to lives of constant captivity in small, unsanitary, crowded cages without access to adequate food, water, exercise or veterinary care.

Puppy Mills do not Produce Healthy Puppies Like Daisy

Puppy Mills do not Produce Healthy Puppies Like Daisy

Puppy mill dogs usually end up in pet stores.  According to the ASPCA, these dogs are sold through brokers when they are as young as eight weeks of age.  Furthermore, the “lineage records of puppy mill dogs are often falsified.”  Thus, the unwary consumer is not getting what he or she pays for.

Puppy Mill Laws:  Anti-Puppy Mill Legislation

Many states across the USA are attempting, with mixed success, to put legislation in place to prevent some of the worst abuses of puppy mills.  And with the assistance of groups like the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Humane Society of the United States and their local affiliates, law enforcement agencies are stepping up raids on puppy mills.

Puppy Mill Awareness Day

Although some progress is being made in the fight against puppy mills, the problem persists.  For instance, concerns remain about whether new anti-puppy mill laws can or will be enforced.

And if consumers remain ignorant about the living horror that is a puppy mill, they will continue to inadvertently support puppy mills by purchasing dogs from pet stores.  That is why events such as those associated with Puppy Mill Awareness Day are so important.  The best way to put puppy mills out of business is to educate the public.

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Take Your Dog Along When You Visit Carmel, California

September 8th, 2009 1 comment

Carmel, California is a Dog-Friendly Town

Quaint and Quirky Carmel-by-the-Sea Loves Dogs

In this quaintly eccentric town on California’s north central coast, there are no street numbers, no traffic lights, no parking meters and very few street lights.  The architecture is a quirky mix of log and stone cabins, gingerbread houses and adobe buildings.

And the people of Carmel are dog lovers, so you’ll feel comfortable strolling along Ocean Avenue, taking in an art gallery or stopping in at a coffee shop with your best friend in tow.  Many of the town’s hotels are pet-friendly and most restaurants with outdoor seating welcome dogs.  Additionally, there are a number of sights in and around Carmel for you and your dog to enjoy together.

Dog-Friendly Parks and Beaches in Carmel, California

There is so much natural beauty surrounding Carmel to appreciate.  Some are well known tourist destinations and others are secrets that the locals try to keep to themselves.

Enjoy the Natural Beauty of Carmel Beach With Your Dog

  • Mission Trail Nature Preserve is a 35-acre park filled with native wildflowers and oak, redwood and Monterey pine trees.  The preserve offers miles of hiking trails for you and your dog to enjoy.  There are two entrances to the preserve, one on Mountain View Avenue and the other on Rio Road across from Carmel Mission.
  • Carmel City Beach is found at the end of Ocean Avenue within walking distance of the village of Carmel.  Well-behaved dogs may run off-leash at this lovely stretch of beach.
  • Carmel River State Beach is just south of Carmel City Beach.  Leashes are required on this mile-long stretch of beach.
  • Garland Ranch Regional Park on Carmel Valley Road is 4,500 acres with landscapes ranging from 200 to 2,000 feet in elevation.  This park can offer some strenuous exercise for you and your dog, as well as an opportunity to take in the natural beauty of canyons, woodlands and chaparral.  Dogs are welcome but must be on a leash no longer than seven feet.

Lamp Lighter Inn in Carmel, California is Pet-Friendly

Dog-Friendly Hotels in Carmel, California

There are many pet-friendly hotels in Carmel, California.  Some do have weight restrictions, though, so it is best to check when making a reservation.

  • Lamp Lighter Inn is surrounded by lush gardens and is located just steps away from Carmel City Beach.  This Bed and Breakfast boutique hotel welcomes pets.
  • Carmel Forest Lodge is a family owned and operated boutique inn just off Ocean Avenue.  Another pet-friendly hotel, they ask that guests notify them when making a reservation that they will be bringing their pet.
  • Tradewinds Carmel has been featured in Architectural Digest and has earned numerous accolades.  This pet-friendly luxury hotel is located on Mission Street in Carmel.


Additional Resources:  Dog-Friendly Monterey, California; Dog-Friendly Restaurants in Monterey, California; Dog-Friendly Ventura, California

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Categories: Traveling With Dogs