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periscope
Dependent-care alternatives

Don’t turn me in, but I don’t license my dogs. I’m not just shirking; I’m a tax rebel. I refuse to pay a tax to have a dog when parents don’t pay a tax—and in fact are subsidized by their neighbors—to have a child.

Now, I think children are great, and I’m mindful that they’ll be contributing to my Social Security and Medicare someday soon. But children also cost society in ways that dogs don’t, and I think it’s time that childless dog owners got a little consideration for having such low-maintenance dependents.

The neighbor dog will never ring your doorbell peddling cookies, candy bars, or raffle tickets to
support obedience classes or doggie day care. Etiquette does not require the purchase of pricey wedding gifts for the dogs of friends and relatives. No health or housing problems (including forced evacuations during natural disasters) are acceptable excuses to allow a dog into an office for a few hours; but head lice or snow days are all it takes for parents to bring their gabbling small-fry into the workplace, causing at least as much noise and distraction as any dogs. Still, no objections from me. Assuring the well-being of kids is paramount.

But consider some other inequities. If my dogs are injured, I can’t call 911 and get ambulance service, though I pay the same taxes as the parent down the block with the accident-prone children. My dogs don’t take up seats in public schools, and they’ll never shoplift, need drug rehab, play with matches, or drive drunk. Unwanted pregnancy is a potential problem in adolescents of both species, but dog owners have a lot more control over their charges’ sex lives than parents do.

In fact, by virtually every measure of public health, dogs beat kids, hands down. Dog waste is certainly an aesthetic affront, but only when swinish owners (no more numerous than boorish parents) leave it lying around in public. Anyway, the risk of canine pathogens crossing over to humans is minuscule compared to the same-species virulence of a baby’s every bodily effusion. Youngsters are living, breathing petri dishes, incubating villainous germs and spreading contagion to the world at large. Yet it’s the childless among us, made even more vulnerable by our lack of daily exposure to children’s bugs, who subsidize the medical insurance of these toddling Typhoid Marys. Ever notice how the family and dependent plans are such a bargain compared to the individual rates? Again, I don’t begrudge the little rugrats; all adults should help parents raise a healthy next generation. But in fairness, how about a small gesture to acknowledge the bonus reaped by society when some adults raise dogs instead of kids? My proposal: When providing health-insurance benefits, employers (Skidmore could be a pioneer) should offer two dependent-care choices, covering either children or pets.

Offering a veterinary alternative wouldn’t raise rates much. Dogs don’t get recurrent earaches, they don’t require orthodontia or glasses, and even if they need expensive or lengthy care, their short life spans guarantee prompt termination at the age of ten or fifteen. Compared to a runny-nosed, upchucking, ankle-spraining kid, the average housepet is an underwriter’s dream. I’d even sign a waiver excluding coverage for decontamination when the insured has deliberately rolled in excrement or putridity. —SR