Can I claim my pet as a dependent?

Pets are a lot like children. Look at their similarities: they’re cute, loving, playful, attention-craving, and they can’t wait for you to get home. They also poop, pee, whine, ignore your commands, and break stuff. (Hey, it’s not all lovey-dovey.)

Like children, pets rely upon you to support them, which can get expensive — especially if you buy your supplies at that big-box PetStore. Add to that veterinary bills, grooming, licenses, cleanup and repairs caused by pet damage, not to mention the cost of the pet itself… ouch.

According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers’ Association, Americans are expected to spend more than $10.5 billion on their pets in 2008. (That’s billion with a B, as in "B-1 Bomber").

So in light of that grim statistic (at least for those who don’t own PetStore stock), it doesn’t seem that silly for tax-paying pet owners to wonder: "Am I allowed to claim my pet as a dependent on my tax return? Can I get some compensation for my contribution to the $10.5 billion? Puleeeze?"

Um, no. You’re more than welcome to try — people have — but if caught you better have plans for someone else to take care of your beloved pet(s) while you are on the sort of "vacation" made famous by Al Capone.

Although the IRS doesn’t specifically spell it out, it is tacitly implied that dependents — at least for taxation purposes — must be human.

Now before you argue that your dog thinks he’s human or that your parakeet acts more like a human than your 2-year-old (I believe you! I believe you!), hear me out.

The rationale behind this "must-be-an-actual-human" requirement is that children of the species Homo sapiens have the potential to grow into adult taxpaying Homo sapiens, whereas dogs, cats, birds, gerbils, fish, rocks, etc., do not. It’s as though the IRS is sowing the seeds — or at least providing the fertilizer — for growing the next crop of taxpayers.

Here’s another way to look at it. Pets do not pay taxes, so why should the government provide tax incentives to the owners of these adorable freeloaders? Ahhhh, now do you see? Makes sense, huh?

Next week, I’ll tell you how to distinguish between human dependents and animal dependents.

Comments (22) Leave your comment

  1. Doesnt sunrise me the way the government screws the american people anyway and getting worse

  2. We’ll I don’t really agree with your statement “dogs don’t pay taxes so why should the government provide tax incentive to the owner of these adorable freeloaders”.well they should pay you at least something because when you buy toys,food,medicine,shampoo etc we have to pay taxes on all of those things plus more,so why not get something back.

    • I don’t agree with this article, you state Pet’s do not pay taxes, but by law they are considered personal property, which us HUMANS pay taxes on, so what is the difference? WE still pay for our pets, as we do for our houses, and vehicles which is considered personal property, so it makes no sense for us not to be able to claim them.

      • That’s true, we buy them food, take them to the Vets, etc and that’s all taxed so yes they do pay taxes. All of us pet lovers/owners should get together and fight to make our politicians change the laws and make Pets accepted as the dependents they truly are. It’s all up to us, we love our pets so let’s fight for them.

    • Give it up. You’re asking the government to give you money for your option to take on the responsibility of a pet. Getting money back from the government means you mismanaged your money in the first place! You gave uncle Sam an interest free loan last year. It’s not an annual bonus, it’s a statement that you didn’t do your financial part correctly! Strive for ZERO on the owed/refund tax line and then present your pet tax case to the government.

    • I agree with what you said! And a lot of Humans don’t pay taxes when they grow up, so whats the reasoning there?

  3. yes I think WE should claim are pets we hav to register them in our state to hav them .feed them make sure they are licenes hav shots make sure they have medcial care if get in trouble get them out pay a fine clean up there messes (poop, Pee) in someoneelses property and protect them and for them to protect us last time I remember dogs mans best freind police get goverment funding for there dogs &taxs breaks and if u hurt their dog u are charged with hitting an officer so my clyde has a job he plays with us clyde protects us clyde is our family when clyde got loose u took him to pound (i call it doggie jail)

    • Your dog is more of an accessory, not a dependant. People spend thousands of dollars on image alone, a pet can’t pay taxes.

      • I agree that a pet cannot pay taxes, But then again. . . neither can an infant, or any child for that matter till they are at least old enough to join the workforce. so the argument that a pet cannot pay taxes is in vain.

  4. It’s weird because people that depend on the government for support and do not work are still allowed to file taxes. How is it any different if I file for my dog as my dependent?

  5. They certainly have not trouble asking 300 dollars for a deposit, a 150 non refundable fee and 20 dollars a month pet rent in apartment buildings. Add to that the 60 dollar a month health insurance bill, unless they intend for me to put a dog down every time he gets sick and the 165 dollars a year just for his annual check up. And that is before food, pee pads, leashes, treats, toys, training lessons. For someone in their age 50′s childless and living alone, a dog is an emotional necessity. They let people breed with utter disregard to their income. Apartments don’t even charge child rent. They expect my dog to go out and get a job to pay his share? It is a real expense and for some people a real necessity and for everyone a real responsibility. If dogs were claimed as dependents I bet we would see a lot fewer of them on the streets, in rescue and dying in KILL facilities. Maybe it is time to stop being fascist nazis toward our pets.

    • I think it depends how much you spend on your pets. Pets are a choice ,however this year my dog was very sick and I spent thousands. Pet insurance says seizures are prexisting, not covered. I do wish since I have to work more to pay for this, I could get a little break. However not at the expense of our schools, fire, police , etc.

  6. i bet if my dog was making thousands of dollars a year advertizing and commercials that the government would take their share .sighned Porsha the dog itself.

  7. Worth asking and I do appriciate the answer. Hey, that’s not a real photo of me, I have a nose and it’s a honker!

  8. Okay… Yes, Kids don’t CURRENTLY pay taxes, but they have the “potential to grow into adult taxpaying” people… you can not claim that of pets. They remain dependent until they die. I love my pets, and they are an importent part of our family… however, they aren’t people. What’s next, claiming house plants?

    • I wonder what argument you would make for people on disability? Furthermore, parents don’t have to pay “kid rent” to land lords. They don’t have to put down a 300 dollar deposit with a 150 dollar non-refundable fee added to the insult of 20 dollars a month.

      • I read an article from an ex irs agent last week, to which I cannot find now, but it stated no you cannot claim your dog but if you have a service dog you can claim it’s costs, ex food vet bills etc. My daughter has 2 therapy dogs, and because they are trained dogs she is not required to pay any extra dep for the dogs. She has gotten hasseled with a few landlords trying to invade her “HIPA” rights wanting her to sign a form so they can get information from her doctors. She just then contacts the ADA.

  9. If (ALL)the hard working tax payers in this country would pertition congress,maybe some changes would be made.After all the money is money that we have sweat and bled for.And our pets are our constitutional right to our persuit of happiness.

    • I wouldn’t think you can claim a pet. There are some MAJOR differences in the two. I know so many people that get dogs or cats for free. the IRS should give us a 3900 deduction for claiming a pet that someone can get for free? Can’t really do the exact same thing with kids. If that was the case the government would be more broke

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