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The HSUS and Local Animal Shelters Ask Missouri Supreme Court to Block Crippling New Animal Adoption Tax

Missouri puppy mill Chihuahuas rescued Jan. 2011

Kathleen Summers/HSUS

The Humane Society of the United States, the Dogwood Animal Shelter in Osage Beach, Mo., and Stray Rescue of St. Louis, have asked the Missouri Supreme Court to block a crippling new government tax on non-profit animal shelters and rescue groups in Missouri. The organizations filed suit in 2011 to block the new tax, but a lower court dismissed the case on jurisdictional grounds earlier this year.

The tax, from which shelters and rescues were exempt prior to 2010, requires animal shelters to pay the state the same fees and taxes as for-profit, large-scale commercial breeding facilities. The punitive tax includes a per-animal fee that shelters must pay for every dog or cat adopted out, costing already cash-strapped animal shelters up to $2,500 per year.

“Animal shelters are already struggling to care for the state’s homeless animals in a weak economy. The last thing they need is to be hit with a senseless government tax on their lifesaving charitable efforts,” said Amanda Good, Missouri state director of The HSUS. “This new tax is the wrong policy, at the wrong time, and will mean fewer dogs and cats get the medical care, vaccinations, and new loving homes they deserve.”

The move came in retaliation for the 2010 Prop B campaign—the citizen initiative that was designed to establish humane standards for dogs living in puppy mills in Missouri. As a result of this backwards policy, shelters will have fewer resources to care for animals and place them for adoption.

The exemption that previously existed for shelters and rescues was quietly removed by the legislature in a bill about explosives that was unrelated to animals. The suit alleges that the provision of SB 795 in question violates the Missouri constitution in that it differs from the original purpose of the bill, which related to blasting safety. The plaintiffs are seeking a declaratory judgment that the provision removing the exemption is unconstitutional, as well as permanent injunctive relief against the enforcement of the provision.

Missouri attorney David B. Cosgrove and lawyers from The HSUS’ Animal Protection Litigation section are representing the plaintiffs in the case.

State Reps. Noel Torpey, R-52 and Jeanne Kirkton, D-91, introduced legislation this year to restore this long-standing exemption to nonprofit animal shelters and rescue groups, which are providing a public service to communities at their own expense and are not engaged in commercial activity. The bill was not enacted in 2012, and the groups are calling for it to be reintroduced and passed swiftly in the 2013 legislative session.


Media Contact:  Raúl Arce-Contreras: 301-721-6440 rcontreras@humanesociety.org