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B.C. non-profit CEO urges tax deductions for vet bills

Such a move would help decrease "economic euthanasia," says chief executive officer of the Regional Animal Protection Society.
Economic euthanasia is a problem that affects animals whether they are in a family home or in an institutional setting.

Too often, families are forced to make life-and-death decisions about their pets based on financial considerations.

“Economic euthanasia” is a term that is sadly familiar to people working in veterinary medicine and at animal rescue agencies. It is the tragic situation where an animal has the potential to recover if provided necessary medical care but that care is not available because it is financially out of reach.

“Most modules of human medical care are now available in veterinary care,” says Eyal Lichtmann, chief executive officer of the Regional Animal Protection Society (RAPS). “This includes ultrasounds, radiology, MRIs, cancer treatments and advanced surgeries. This has driven up the cost of veterinary care. While this all good news, any unexpected expense can be catastrophic for a family’s budget.” 

He adds: “We believe governments should be doing what they can to address this issue. It is not just a quality-of-life issue, it is a life-and-death issue.”

Economic euthanasia is a problem that affects animals whether they are in a family home or in an institutional setting. Families cannot always afford the care they need and animal organizations often find themselves unable to provide for animals because their budgets do not allow.

Since opening the nonprofit RAPS Animal Hospital, in 2018, Lichtmann’s organization has provided more than $5.5. million in partially and fully subsidized care to animals in households with low incomes or facing other challenges. 

“That’s a lot of support for one community,” Lichtmann said. “But it is a drop in the bucket on a national scale. Animals and their people need systemic changes to confront economic euthanasia.”

A white paper on the subject calls for a range of policy changes that employers, insurers, veterinary care providers and pet guardians can take to reduce euthanasia. But Lichtmann contends that one fairly simple step by the federal government could make a dramatic change.

“Canadians need to be able to deduct veterinary expenses from their taxes,” he said. “This is obviously not the ultimate answer to the larger issue of affordability and cost of living, but it is a crucial and tangible step.”

A petition calling on the government to make vet expenses tax-deductible is online and will be presented to federal officials as part of a broader awareness and advocacy campaign. 

Recognizing the importance of companion animals as part of Canadian families is not just good for the families, Lichtmann said, it has proven public health benefits.

“Mountains of studies and statistics tell us that people with pets are healthier and happier,” he said. “This has obvious impacts on the health-care system, longevity and community cohesion. More importantly, a large section of the population who do not have children, have pets. Governments should be rewarding and encouraging animal-human bonds.”

Pat Johnson is the communications manager at the Regional Animal Protection Society.