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Massachusetts House Bill 4647 seeks to provide tax credits for individuals who adopt certain dogs from a shelter.  The bill is scheduled to be considered by the General Court’s Joint Revenue Committee on Tuesday, July 17.  Massachusetts residents are encouraged to contact the members of the Joint Revenue Committee and express any concerns they may have with HB 4647.

As introduced, House Bill 4647:

  • Creates the “Adopt a Shelter Pet” Fund, which will be funded through the sale of new “I’m Animal Friendly” automobile license plates, other moneys credited or transferred to it by the Commonwealth, and interest and investments made on the Fund. The fund will be used to provide tax credits.
  • Allows a taxpayer credits for the adoption of a “qualified pet” from a “qualifying adoption entity”, if the new owner of the dog provides adoption papers and proof of local registration of the animals.
  • Provides a tax credit of (1) $400 for the adoption of a dog over seven years of age or for a disabled dog or cat of any age; (2) a tax credit of $200 for the adoption of a dog 1-6 years old or a cat over seven years old; or (3) $100 for a cat 1-6 years old. No more than two credits are permitted per household.
  • Clarifies that, as long as the pet is still in the adopters’ ownership and care, the credit would be distributed over a period of three years as follows: 20% of the credit for the first tax year following the adoption; 40% of the credit for the second tax year following the adoption; and 40% for the third tax year following the adoption.
  • Defines “qualifying adoption entity” as a public animal control facility, office, agency, or shelter, humane society shelter or rescue group.

The American Kennel Club understands the legislative interest in promoting the adoption of unowned local dogs from local animal shelters.  However, because the point of distribution is the key to unlocking the tax credit benefits under HB 4647, any dog adopted from a qualifying adoption entity that meets the bill’s age/disability requirements would qualify for the proposed tax credits, even if the dog was relocated from an out-of-state source.  A serious yet unintended consequence of HB 4647 is that this will incentivize an even larger number of dog imports into Massachusetts for the express purpose of supplying shelters with animals.  This could also increase the public health risks that often accompany interstate imports of shelter and rescue dogs.  One alternative would be to limit availability of the tax credit to only those adopted dogs verified to be sourced exclusively from within Massachusetts.

Furthermore, in the interest of market equity, the American Kennel Club does not believe that tax breaks should be used to incentivize the choice of a pet from one source over another. Experience demonstrates that pet ownership is most successful when prospective pet owners choose a pet that is a good match for their individual lifestyle. Great pets can come from a variety of sources, so it is better to encourage prospective owners to select the pet that is right one for their lifestyle.  Additionally, the idea of offering tax breaks or incentives for purchasing pets from specific sources or for procuring care for them (akin to special treatment taxpayers may avail themselves of after paying for care of people) must be considered with extreme caution. It must be questioned whether such proposals implicitly treat animals as something other than legal property. Any discussion about whether animals should be treated as something other than property should occur explicitly by state legislatures with input from the public.

Concerned Massachusetts residents are encouraged to contact the members of the Joint Revenue Committee and express concerns that they may have with HB 4647.  The committee is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, July 17, 2018, at 10AM in Hearing Room B-2 of the State House, 24 Beacon St., Boston, MA 02133.

Senate Members:

State Senator Michael D. Brady, Senate Chairman

State Senator Cynthia Stone Creem, Senate Vice Chair

State Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives

State Senator Michael J. Rodrigues

State Senator Joseph A. Boncore

State Senator Ryan C. Fattman

House Members:

State Representative Jay R. Kaufman, House Chair

State Representative Linda Dean Campbell, Vice Chair

State Representative Colleen M. Garry

State Representative Brian M. Ashe

State Representative James J. Dwyer

State Representative Alan Silvia

State Representative Daniel J. Hunt

State Representative Brian Murray

State Representative Shawn Dooley

State Representative Peter J. Durant

For more information, contact AKC Government Relations at