For more than 70 years, my family has dedicated their lives to taking care of family pets in Rhode Island. From grooming and day care to veterinary services and boarding, we have devoted our expertise and our passion to pets. Those of us who work at the Rhode Island Animal Medical Center and Four Paws Resort, do what we do for the love of animals. It’s not just the family business – it’s a “calling.”
But the state of Rhode Island has interfered with our business, and our decades-old passion to help keep animals safe and healthy and serve the community.
I am a small-business owner. Since the Great Recession, many pet owners have had to cut back on various services – either they have not brought their pets in at all, or their visits have been less frequent. Our expenses do not become fewer just because we have fewer clients.
Last year, the state passed a bill to impose a 7 percent tax on pet services. That law went into effect this past October. Since this tax has gone into effect, our tax burden has increased six-fold, from an average of $600 per month to over $3500! In addition to losing clients, the penalties for being late are more than the sum total of two months of our old monthly tax rate.
Our staff, like our clients, is like family to us. We employ a great many low-income residents of Rhode Island. If we do not receive some relief, we will have to substantially reduce our staff. This is not what we want, it is not fair to the employees and it does not bode well for Rhode Island.
Why are pet services being singled out for this service tax? I’ll tell you why: because Rhode Island lawmakers know we do not have the well-funded resources required to produce a strong lobby as some other occupations – like attorneys, carpenters, plumbers, medical professionals and other trades. We not only must bear the undue burden of this tax, which is negatively affecting our businesses, but we also have to suffer bullying from those in power who know we have the weakest coffers to fight them.
Most groomers work their jobs as second incomes for their families and do not earn much more than $25,000 per year if they are lucky. This proposed tax is hurting the working poor as day care and boarding staff jobs support many low-income households and young workers.
But lawmakers have the power to change that. There are three bills in front of the General Assembly that could repeal this burdensome 7 percent tax on pet services. House bill 5095, House bill 5117 and Senate bill 66 would remove the language from the law that currently imposes this tax. If these bills are passed, we can continue to offer our services to Rhode Island, maintain our current staff levels and be part of a growing, rather than a dying, local economy.
Director of the Rhode Island Animal Medical Center, Warwick