A bill to increase fees for pet food distributors to help control dog and cat populations cleared its first legislative hurdle Tuesday (Jan. 30) when members of the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee unanimously voted to support it.
House Bill 64, sponsored by Reps. Carl Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, and Debbie Rodella, D-Española, would impose an increase on commercial pet food registration fees to $100 per food label each year from $2. Turkey-based dog food, for example, amounts to one label, while turkey-based cat food sold by the same company is considered another label.
With some 8,300 such food labels, the increase would raise more than $800,000 a year to help impoverished citizens pay to have some 11,000-plus more dogs and cats get spayed and neutered, Trujillo said.
Otherwise, he said, "dogs and cats will continue to multiply, and we will be putting more and more of them to death at an increased cost to counties." County shelters around the state spend a collective $38 million to euthanize animals per year, he said.
Supporters of the bill, many of whom identified themselves as employees or volunteers of animal shelters around the state, said HB 64 is a much-needed remedy to curb dog and cat populations and save shelters time, money and emotional stress from having to do away with abandoned and emaciated critters who are too ill to save.
Brooke Garcia of Gallup, for example, said large packs of feral dogs roam the area, particularly on tribal lands. She said a pack of such dogs mauled and killed an elementary school student there some years ago. She and other attendees from the Gallup area said people in that community would spay and neuter their pets if they had the money to do so.
But owners of local pet food stores, while pledging their support for the spay and neuter part of the bill, said it would almost certainly force them to raise the price on dog and cat food and even discourage out-of-state pet food producers from doing business in New Mexico.
Ellen Hutchins, owner of Tullivers Pet Food Emporium on Cerrillos Road, said the low registration fees ensure that New Mexicans have a lot of different pet food brands to choose from.
Robert Likins, vice president of governmental affairs for the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, said in an emailed statement Tuesday evening that the national group opposes HB 64 and questions the need for additional funds for spay and neuter services.
"Spay and neuter services are already available throughout the state from multimillion-dollar animal welfare organizations for as little as $10," he said. "The full House should reject this unwise, expensive bill that adds fees on the backs of all pet stores and pet owners to pay for services that are already being provided."
The bill next moves to the House Business and Industry Committee.
Contact Robert Nott at 505-986-3021 or firstname.lastname@example.org.