Stavisky bill aims to help pet owners

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If not pennies from heaven, consider it “kibbles from Albany.”

State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D−Whitestone) has authored a bill that would exempt pet food from sales tax in order to keep owners with money troubles from abandoning the animals.

“It would save a family a great deal of money,” she said.

A 20−pound bag of cat food costs $33 and feeds two cats for a month, she said. By eliminating the sales tax on a year’s worth of the cat food, a pet owner would save $33.17 — enough to feed two cats for an additional month, she said.

Senate Bill 2739 has been referred to committee. A matching bill is also making its way through the state Assembly.

Stavisky said she got the idea from a constituent who mailed her a copy of “The Worthy Pause,” a newsletter published by a Bayside−based pet welfare service that advocated the idea.

“I thought about it and it makes sense,” she said.

The impact of the recession has affected local shelters, volunteers said.

Boris Niyazov, who runs the Animal Center of Queens, a Rego Park−based non−kill shelter, said the number of pets surrendered by their cash−strapped owners has dramatically increased in the last two months.

Michelle Villagomez, government relations director for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said their city office has also received an uptick in calls from people who want to know how to properly turn over their animals.

“In this economy pet owners require as much help as possible,” she said.

Bette Cyzner, a volunteer with the Animal Center of Queens, said small shelters like hers are hard−pressed to take care of all the animals. The Rego Park shelter can handle 30 dogs and 40 cats at emergency capacity.

“When the no−kill shelters fill up, they’re left with a choice: Either taking them to the municipal pounds where there is a good chance they’ll be euthanized or abandon them on the street,” Cyzner said. “It creates a problem because it affects health and safety. It’s everyone’s problem, not just animal lovers’.”

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

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