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JUST KEEPING YOU ALL UP TO DATE WITH THIS BIT OF NEWS . A  $3,500 TAX DEDUCTION MAYBE IN THE WORKS FOR PET OWNERS.  READ ON:  After footing vet bills, supplying dog food and replacing soiled rugs, man’s best friend can become an expensive companion.

A proposed federal bill, introduced by U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) could help cover these pet ownership costs by allowing pet owners to deduct up to $3,500 from their taxable income.

“Families have raised concerns about how the recession has impacted them and their pets,” said Anne Tyrrell, press secretary for McCotter. “The bill is intended to provide tax relief to these families and pet owners.”

Act 3501, entitled Humanity and Pets Partnered through the Years Act, or the HAPPY Act, would serve to cover pet care expenses for legally owned, domesticated animals.

Tyrrell said these expenses would mainly include veterinary costs, but specifics of what qualifies as pet care expenses are yet to be determined.

“The current recession has led to an increase in the number of animals in shelters and a decrease in the number of pets being adopted,” Tyrrell said.

Patrick Rives, superintendent of the Athens-Clarke County Animal Control, hopes the expenses of having pets spayed or neutered would be included in the HAPPY Act’s covered costs.

“If people are able to deduct the costs of spaying and neutering, that would certainly reduce the number of animals that go into shelters,” Rives said. “It could have an effect on controlling local population of strays. All around, the holy grail of sheltering is having pets spayed and neutered.”

Students at the University said this bill could help find homes for stray animals of Athens.

“A lot of my friends want dogs, but they know how much my boyfriend and I spend on our dogs, so they think they can’t afford to own one,” said Casie Walker, a junior from Woodstock.

Walker and her boyfriend just spent an ample amount of money on their American eskimo dog, Mufasa, and their beagle, Sherlock.

“Mufasa broke his leg, had to have it re-bandaged and had an infection when we went to get the bandage taken off,” Walker said.

“During this same time, my other dog needed her yearly shots, checkups and heartworm tests,” she said.

Walker said in the span of two weeks, she and her boyfriend spent more than $700 on the dogs’ needs, not including food.

“Food isn’t too bad since we buy a huge bag of cheap food, but we still spend a lot of money on them,” Walker said.

Brooke Drinkard, a junior from Birmingham, Ala., said she and her boyfriend spend a significant amount of money on food, vet bills, baths and grooming for their dogs.

“As long as people don’t buy pets just for the deduction, this bill could be great and very helpful to pet owners,” Drinkard said.

If passed, the bill could help Drinkard and Houston pay for the two mutts they found on the road – Beau, short for General Beauregard, and Jackson, as in Stonewall.

The HAPPY Act was introduced in July and is underway in the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee.

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