Columns | Daily Chronicle

Eye On Illinois: There’s no such thing as a free pup

When it comes to government, simple solutions are in short supply.

Consider House Bill 2500, which passed 107-0 March 24. State Rep. Harry Benton, D-Plainfield, filed the plan to waive animal shelter adoption fees for Illinois veterans, allowing one free dog or cat adoption every two years.

“Helping veterans adopt loving pets isn’t just a great way of helping them heal, it’s also a small way of giving back to them after everything they did for us,” Benton said in a news release. “Having a pet can be one of the most rewarding experiences everyday life has to offer, and don’t our veterans deserve that? Why should they pay a fee when they’ve already sacrificed so much for our country? For me, that’s really what it boils down to.”

Scott T. Holland

I’m not a veteran but we have two rescue mutts. Our fee covered micro-chipping, vaccines and the spay/neuter procedures at a partnering veterinarian. The rescue and its volunteers incurred expenses transporting the dogs to the suburbs and foster care, plus general website and office costs.

Nonprofit status helps – our rescue runs a year-round resale shop as a fundraiser – but the proposal amounts to an unfunded mandate on agencies trying to make positive contributions on shoestring budgets. Would there have been 107 yes votes if the proposal involved the state footing the bill?

Perhaps the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Animal Health and Welfare could certify veteran adoptions and send checks to the rescues, or the veterans could qualify for 1:1 state income tax credits. It’s easy to imagine the pushback if the state ordered county health departments to create veteran pet adoption funds, even if they could pass it along through increased rabies tag fees.

Maybe pet food and supply companies could get tax credits for donating to a fund that would cover the adoption fees, perhaps with an annual cap on expenditures. The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars or other groups might consider helping such an effort, although it’s not as if those groups are presently flush with excess cash.

I agree with Benton regarding helping veterans who “have returned from overseas with emotional and psychological scars” and note there are several nationwide charities pairing service dogs with veterans with disabilities. Their experience seems valuable.

A pet’s love is tangible. Most Illinoisans agree veterans are owed gratitude for their service. But there’s no such thing as a free pup, which makes it hard to look at the people who pour themselves into foster and rescue work and ask them to give even more.

We’re not talking about huge sums, but whenever government pledges waiving a fee, it’s fair to ask who ultimately pays and if there might be a better option.

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at

Scott Holland

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at