Animal-lovers force Parliamentary debate over sharp IVA hike on veterinary care

petsA massive hike in IVA on veterinary drugs and products is due for debate in Parliament tomorrow (Tuesday, October 4) thanks to ongoing pressure from animal charities, activists and vets themselves, who claim more pets are abandoned or left to suffer as a result.

IVA on veterinary treatment and products used to be in the middle bracket, which was 8% – compared with 4% for the lowest and 18% standard – until September 2012, when the standard level went up to 21% and the middle bracket to 10%.

The cost of veterinary treatment for livestock remained in the middle level, although went up from 8% to 10%, but for all other animals including pets, it shifted to the higher band, meaning an overnight hike from 8% to 21%.

Vet bills have since soared, since these were historically cheaper in Spain than in, for example, the UK and surgeries were unable to absorb the tax hike without running at a loss.

And as a result, they are struggling to make ends meet anyway, since animal owners are less likely to take their pets for treatment or check-ups due to the inflated cost.

Animal charities say the collateral effect has been four years of fewer dogs and cats spayed or neutered, more animals abandoned, fewer being given necessary vaccinations, and fewer illnesses treated.

With an estimated 48% of Spanish households being home to at least one animal, the number of people and pets who are affected by the IVA hike is significant.

Once, animal-lovers who found an abandoned dog or cat in the street would take them to their nearest vet to check over and treat for any ailments, before either keeping them, searching for a home or looking for a shelter with space – but vets have now noticed a decline in this altruistic practice, even though animal-dumping rates have soared.

The Parliamentary Association in Defence of Animals (APDDA), made up of MPs and Senators have drawn up a non-legislative proposal to drop veterinary treatment into the middle IVA band, down to 10%.

The 21% IVA is applied to so-called ‘luxury goods and services’, and APDDA argues that pets’ health is not a luxury, but a necessity.

Two MPs spearheading the campaign, Ester Capella and Joan Capdevila – the latter being a vet by profession himself – speak of the ‘dramatic increase’ in animals being abandoned or neglected and the ‘consequent ethical, social and humanitarian costs’.

According to a survey by the Affinity Foundation in 2015, a total of 12% of animals were abandoned for financial reasons, and another 14.5% because of unwanted litters – which could have been prevented by sterilising, although this comes at a significant cost.

Capdevila says in 2013, according to data from the researchers Veterindustria, the number of animals taken for vet appointments went down by 6.3% – within just one year of the IVA hike, meaning the percentage may be even higher as time has worn on.

The veterinary industry is the only one which is not taxed in the same way as other health sector professions, APDDA recalls.

Then there is the public health aspect, Capdevila says: the IVA rise has led to ‘a fall in preventive treatments’ for controlling ‘infectious illnesses and parasites’, which put the human population at risk in the case of conditions which are transferrable.

“The application of an IVA reduction to 10% would only lead to a fall in State income of 0.000011%, but which would be compensated for multiple times over by the benefits it brings,” APDDA insists.

And, in fact, the income from IVA for the State may be higher, because more pet-owners will have their animals treated, sterilised, vaccinated and given parasite medication.

The Observatory for Justice for and Defence of Animals is just one major organisation which has set up a petition on Change.org for IVA to be lowered on veterinary treatment.

They point out that more and more regional and local governments are becoming animal-aware and making it a legal requirement for pet-owners to treat their dogs and cats when they are ill, which goes against the government’s decision to increase the costs of doing so.

Their petition has now attracted nearly 227,000 signatures.

Published Think Spain 3 October 2016

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