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Vet bills adding up? California bill would let you write off thousands

Video: UC Davis vets treat cats burned in wildfires

Nearly 40 cats treated at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital suffered serious burns in the Butte and Valley fires.
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Nearly 40 cats treated at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital suffered serious burns in the Butte and Valley fires.

If you own a pet, you’ve likely cringed after reading the bottom line of a vet bill.

A state assemblyman wants to ease the financial burden of pet ownership with an income tax credit that allows Californians to write off half the money they spend on vet costs up to $2,000 per year.

Devon Mathis, R-Visalia, introduced Assembly Bill 942 on Thursday to give pet owners a break on vaccinations, check-ups, surgeries, x-rays, prescriptions and other medical-related expenses for their four-legged friends. The tax credit is limited to healthcare costs for dogs and cats.

While the American Pet Products Association estimates that routine vet visits cost an average of $235 for dogs and $196 for cats annually, more complex procedures can cost thousands.

The bill for an emergency surgery after a cat swallowed a hair pin cost $2,964, according to an example of a claim submitted to the pet insurance company Trupanion based in Seattle. The surgical costs for a pet that was hit by a car and suffered a fractured pelvis topped $3,700, while claims for long term diabetes medication and blood work cost nearly $10,500, Trupanion said.

In all, Americans spent nearly $16 billion on veterinary care in 2016, according estimates from the American Pet Products Association.

Mathis said nearly everyone he knows has a sad story from childhood about a medical issue forcing their family to put a dog or cat down.

“What if you don’t have to put them down?” Mathis said. “This is an incentive to do the surgery and keep them in the family.”

Mathis has a black lab named Gypsy, a Queensland heeler named Bailey, a tabby cat Monster and a black and white cat named Minnow.

“It helps everyone across the state, every family and every pet lover out there,” Mathis said.

Taryn Luna: 916-326-5545, @TarynLuna

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