New bill would repeal West Virginia dog tax

WEST VIRGINIA (WOAY) – A new piece of legislation would repeal the state dog tax.

House Bill 4051, dubbed as the Save All Baby Dogs Act, would repeal the collection of the head tax on dogs by assessors.

The current state code requires assessors to collect a $3 head tax on all registered dogs.

According to the state code, if the tax is not paid by the dog’s owner, then the county is authorized to impound the dog and attempt to sell it to recover the delinquent taxes. If the dog is unsold, the county is allowed to kill the dog.

Raleigh County Delegate Mick Bates proposed this new bill to repeal the tax.

“When you go look at the code, it actually says if you don’t pay the tax the sheriff can come take your dog and sell it on the courthouse steps and shoot your dog,” Bates said. “That’s what the code says, so that code needs to go.”

The Department of Tax and Revenue estimates the tax generates $250,000 annually statewide.

Bates added he believes repealing this tax would reduce the burden on both dog owners and tax assessors.

“You don’t tax cats, fish, kangaroos, or snakes, but we tax dogs. And you have to fill out a form, pay $3, then it costs you money to put it in an envelope and send it, and then they send you a tag. It costs us $20 to collect $3.”

Inspiration for the bill came when it was discovered last year that Gov. Justice’s English bulldog, Babydog, was not registered in Greenbrier County. Justice quickly registered Babydog soon after. 

Based on revenue figures and the number of dogs registered in the state, it’s estimated only 18% of owned dogs in West Virginia are registered. 

Although the current tax code allows counties to kill the dog if the tax is not payed, many counties instead will relinquish the dog to a local animal shelter.

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