Can You Deduct Pet Expenses on Your Tax Return?

Author: Christy Gibson

Published: March 21, 2022

Updated: January 16, 2023

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white dog in front of chalkboard with digging for tax deductionsYou'd be surprised to learn what unexpected tax deductions could be legitimate.

If you're itemizing for the tax year 2021, you're probably trying to claim as many acceptable deductions as you can. Why would you not? Some of them are conventional. Mortgage interest. Medical expenses. Home office. Charitable contributions.

However, it may be that you're eligible to take additional deductions for expenses you'd never considered.

Tax Deductions for Pet Expenses

We all joke about deducting our dogs and cats as dependents, but there are times when having a pet could lead to a tax deduction.

There's a famous case where a junkyard owner could deduct the cost of the cat food he put out to attract feral cats. The felines took care of pest control for his business. There are others who deduct some pet care costs because their dog or cat is an internet sensation, and they've set up a business for it. If any of the following scenarios match your life with your pets, you may want to dig in a bit more to see if you can get some tax breaks.

Service Animals or Emotional Support Animals

People who rely on an animal trained to assist a person with a disability may be able to claim costs associated with buying, maintaining, and training them — it would be considered a medical expense. To qualify, your medical expenses paid during the year must exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. You may be able to get a tax deduction for pet expenses if your pet helps you in a medical capacity or performs certain services.

Veterans, and others who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), may be able to claim a tax deduction for a dog who performs specific services for them. If you have an emotional support animal, you may be able to deduct expenses associated with caring for the animal – although not every pet qualifies. 

Pets as Part of a Business (working and performance animals)

Business owners may be able to get a tax deduction if their pet provides a service for the company, and you can prove that the cost of keeping your pet is a necessary part of operating your business. A few examples would be a pet that appears in commercials, print advertisements, or you have built a business around the pet, such as a YouTube channel.

Fostering Pets

Fostering pets might get you a tax deduction. Every expense you pay out of pocket caring for foster animals could be deducted as charitable donations if the animals are from a qualified nonprofit.

Volunteers at animal shelters or rescue organizations may be able to deduct fuel costs associated with driving done in service to the organization's mission (not to your commute), so keep track of your mileage.

Pet-Related Moving Expenses

Pet owners who move may benefit from a tax deduction for the costs of transferring their pets to their new homes if those pet owners meet certain conditions established by the IRS. The move must closely relate to the start of work; your new primary job location must be at least 50 miles farther from your old home than your previous job location, and, after the move, you must work full-time at your new job for at least 39 weeks the first year.

Hold on to all your expense receipts if you want to claim any of these pet tax deductions.

We're not suggesting you try deducting some wacky expenses on your 1040 this year. But we are suggesting that you work with your bookkeeper and accountant to find every deduction and credit that's allowable.


About the author

Profile picture for Christy Gibson

Christy Gibson

Christy founded Seattle-based Gibson Bookkeeping in 2005. Its mission is to help small business owners take their business to the next level. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration from Western Washington University, has been certified through the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers, and is a Diamond-level Certified QuickBooks® ProAdvisor. 

Christy has summited Mt. Rainier twice and has run three marathons. She is a Northwest native, is married, has three amazing adult kids, and a sweet golden retriever mix named Jake.