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Colorado’s HB24-1163: A Menacing Pet Tax Proposal

By Raina Lucero

February 9, 2024

The Second Regular Session of Colorado’s Seventy-fourth General Assembly convened on January 10, 2024, and less than one month later the Colorado House has introduced a bill that has pet owners and animal enthusiasts up in arms. House Bill 24-1163, titled the “Pet Animal Registration Act,” proposed by Democrat Representative Regina English, is drawing widespread criticism for its unprecedented and hefty pet tax provisions. This bill, if passed, would impose an annual tax of up to $25 on each pet, including invertebrates, and require mandatory registration with the State.

The bill outlines a staggering tax structure, with fees ranging from $8.50 to $25 per animal, depending on whether the pet has a designated caregiver, is spayed or neutered, or lacks a designated caregiver. The expansive definition of “pet animal” includes dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice, rats, gerbils, ferrets, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates. Yes, even a child’s ant farm could be subject to this new tax, however their pet rocks should be exempt at this time.

The most striking aspect of the bill is its potential financial burden on pet owners. For example, someone with 100 aquarium fish could be paying a staggering $850 annually, and failure to designate a caregiver could escalate the cost to $2,500. This raises significant concerns about the affordability of keeping pets, especially for enthusiasts with diverse collections of reptiles, fish, and other animals.

The lack of a cap or household maximum taxation adds another layer of anxiety for pet owners. The bill, in addition to any existing local taxes like dog licenses, could lead to exorbitant annual fees for those with multiple pets, discouraging responsible pet ownership.

The bill proposes a new online pet animal registration system to be managed by the Department of Agriculture. Failure to register pets could result in fines of up to $100 per animal per violation. This punitive approach raises questions about the practicality and fairness of such penalties, especially for individuals unaware of the new law.

Furthermore, the bill’s definition of “pet animal” is broad, potentially impacting animal breeders and sellers registered under the Pet Animal Care and Facilities Act (PACFA) Program. While livestock animals are exempt, the bill does not explicitly exclude animals under PACFA, creating ambiguity about its applicability to breeders.

The bill claims to connect pets with their owners during emergencies and support animal shelters. However, critics argue that the proposed measures do little to achieve these goals. Instead, the bill appears to assume that pet owners are irresponsible and requires them to pay additional taxes for the government to monitor their pets.

Representative Regina English, the bill’s sponsor, has not remained immune to public backlash. Many have expressed their concerns about the bill’s impact on pet owners, prompting Representative Ty Winter to oppose the legislation, a statement from his office read, “Over the weekend we received hundreds of emails asking Rep. Winter to oppose this bill. It is an egregious government overreach and yet another attempt by the ruling class to tax Coloradans who are already struggling. Hopefully, this bill will be killed in committee. Representative Winter will be a “No” vote.”

Representative Richard Holtorf who represents Colorado’s House District 63 and is currently campaigning for Colorado’s CD4 seat, sits on the House’s Agriculture, Water & Natural Resources Committee and stated,

“I wish I could find any good reason to explain the logic behind this bill, but I cannot. Rep English (D) has introduced this ridiculous bill to take more money (Pet Fees) out of the Colorado tax base.”

Holtorf went on to say, “I will be a hard NO and I fight to not allow this to get out of committee. This bill is one of the most ridiculous bills I have seen in 5 years here in the state Capitol.”

The bill’s hearing is scheduled for February 22nd before the House Agriculture, Water & Natural Resources Committee, providing an opportunity for further discussion and potential amendments.

Public response to HB24-1163 has been swift and strong. Critics argue that the proposed pet tax would discourage pet ownership, potentially leading to an increase in abandoned animals and adversely affecting local animal shelters.

Colorado’s House Bill 24-1163 has ignited a contentious debate over the role of government in regulating and taxing pet ownership. While the bill claims to address emergency preparedness and support animal shelters, its practical implications and financial burdens on pet owners have raised significant concerns. As the bill heads to the House Agriculture, Water & Natural Resources Committee for a hearing, the fate of Colorado’s pet owners and their furry, feathered, and scaly companions hangs in the balance. Will the bill be amended to address the valid concerns raised by the community, or will it proceed unchanged, potentially reshaping the landscape of pet ownership in the state? The coming weeks will reveal the answer to this pivotal question.

As of press time, HB24-1163, has been postponed indefinitely, less than a week after its introduction. State Representative Regina English, who sponsored the bill, expressed her decision to shelve the legislation due to significant backlash and threats received.

In a statement, Rep. English explained, “This was not a good bill in the state that it is in, and I can admit that,” The bill had faced major pushback within days of its introduction, prompting the representative to reconsider its viability.

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