House of Delegates member Mick Bates, R-Raleigh, has proposed the “Save All Baby Dogs Act of 2022” that will keep dogs like Governor Jim Justice’s pet English bulldog, Babydog, from being taxed and possibly killed in West Virginia. 

House Bill 4051 seeks to repeal the collection of the head tax on dogs by county assessors. The current state code requires assessors to assess and collect a $3 head tax on each dog owned by West Virginia residents. If the tax is not paid, the sheriff is authorized to impound and sell the dog to recover the delinquent taxes. If the dog goes unsold, the Sheriff is required to kill the dog. 

“Dogs are considered a member of the family by most West Virginians,” said Bates whose household includes two rescue dogs – Bella and Millie. “They provide companionship and help comfort us during stressful times. It is unconscionable that we still have a law on the books in West Virginia that requires the county sheriff to kill the family pet over a $3 unpaid tax bill.”  

A fiscal note prepared by the Department of Tax and Revenue estimates the tax only generates $250,000 annually statewide and states the bill would reduce costs to the county assessors as they would no longer be required to collect the head tax on dogs. 

“Because of the responsible conservative leadership of the Governor and Legislature, West Virginia is experiencing unprecedented growth and record surpluses” stated Bates. “We have a tremendous opportunity to review our antiquated tax code that overburdens our citizens. The repeal of the dog tax is a commonsense example of how we can eliminate arduous taxes and fees from state law that don’t produce value for our residents.” 

Inspiration for the legislation came when it was reported last August that Justice’s English bulldog, Babydog, had no record of being registered with the Greenbrier County Assessor’s Office, the county where Justice lives. Justice promptly registered Babydog, but the situation highlighted that dog taxes are consistently overlooked by most West Virginians. Based on the revenue figures contained in the fiscal note and pet population estimates, only 18% of West Virginia’s 455,396 dogs are properly registered and taxed.  

House Bill 4051 has additional sponsorship from Delegates Householder, Criss, Steele, and Foster. The bill is currently in the House Committee on Finance. 

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