To the editor:
Marilyn Monroe once said, “Dogs never bite me. Only humans.”
When the Rhode Island General Assembly passed a bill in the 2012 legislative session that imposed a new tax, effective October 1, 2012 — a seven percent tax to be exact — on various pet services, that’s exactly what happened. Dogs, pet parents and business owners suffered the teeth marks from a legislature that wanted to take a bite out of a small business sector that could not adequately defend itself.
Pet groomers, sitters, trainers and boarders are among those that must now charge, collect and remit Rhode Island sales and use tax.
As the smallest state in the union, Rhode Island’s legislative leadership should well comprehend the implications of bullying small business in the state. Moreover, they should understand the value of small business in the big picture and what it means in the long term for its communities throughout.
Rhode Island easily suffers from the ‘border effect’ – business competition with neighboring states that do not impose such a tax on pet services. With the imposition of a seven percent sales tax, customers can easily drive to Massachusetts for identical pet services. Instead of making it more difficult for our businesses to compete, and thrive, we should be making it easier.
In a down economy, we all look to create revenue and cut costs. Families must do this every day. Businesses are subject to market fluctuations and are constantly challenged to resolve fiscal hurdles to stay solvent. If people are still reeling from the economic downturn and limiting the products and services they buy, the last thing a business needs is a new tax that drives consumer costs up. And small businesses do not need another tax to track and document, which costs consumers as well.
Rhode Island is going to get a second chance to make this year better for small business, for pet owners and for dogs. RI House Bills 5095, 5117 and Senate Bill 66 repeal this unjustified sales tax on pet services. This relieves pet care services in the state from charging their customers an additional seven percent sales tax, it re-establishes a level playing field for pet care service providers in competition with neighboring states and it promotes animal welfare by removing an additional financial hurdle to proper pet care and grooming, which is essential for an animal’s good health.
In addition, Rhode Island would do well to look at the big picture in animal welfare. Pet ownership provides real joy. We do not need to disincentivize good people from purchasing puppies or adopting pets by attaching additional fees onto the care of these animals. This fiscal burden not only concerns consumers, it creates an environment hostile to business and puts animals at risk. Overall, the income generated from the new tax will only raise a very small amount of monies for the state treasury. Displacing small businesses that employ our citizens is hardly worth the cost.
At this crucial time in the economy, we look to, and thank, our representatives who have sponsored these bills, including HB 5095 Sponsor, Representative John G. Edwards and his co-sponsors including Dennis M. Canario; HB 5117 co-sponsors including Louis P. DiPalma and Walter S. Felag Jr.
We ask their legislative colleagues to join in support of these bills and encourage constituents to contact your elected representatives to voice your support of these bills.
Owner, Sakonnet Grooming & Pet Wellness