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Local Girl Scouts may be to thank as Florida considers pet supplies for tax holiday

A Palm Harbor group of scouts noticed Florida’s tax holiday didn’t cover pet crates and pet food. They reached out to the Legislature to change that.
Members of a Palm Harbor Girl Scout troop speak to the Florida House Ways and Means committee about adding pet supplies to the tax holiday.
Members of a Palm Harbor Girl Scout troop speak to the Florida House Ways and Means committee about adding pet supplies to the tax holiday. [ Courtesy of the Florida House of Representatives ]
Published Feb. 18|Updated Feb. 18

The seven Girl Scouts in Palm Harbor Troop No. 60601 and their troop leaders count about 15 pets among them. More than 50 if you include all the fish.

Australian shepherds Colt and Turk. A golden retriever puppy, Cay. An axolotl named Chico. A hefty black-and-white cat named Remi.

When four members of the troop last spring started brainstorming ideas for the Girl Scouts Silver Award, one of the highest merit awards for middle-school-aged girls, they thought of their animals.

After realizing that Florida’s disaster preparedness sales tax holiday for emergency supplies does not cover pet food, pet carriers and other items for the nonhuman members of their households, they started an online petition and emailed their representative, House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor.

Sprowls and other legislators listened.

On Thursday, the Florida House Ways and Means committee approved a bill adding emergency pet supplies to the tax holiday. The bill will now be referred either to a committee or to the floor for a vote.

“It was kind of surprising, ‘cause we’re just like a bunch of eighth and ninth graders just doing a project for Girl Scouts, and it made it all the way up here,” said Joleen Bessada, 15.

Related: Hurricane 2021: Here’s how to keep your pets as safe as you | Column

Members of the troop went to Tallahassee to address the committee. After they presented their request and why they thought it was important, the committee gave the troop a round of applause.

“It gives me hope to know we have youth out there who come to Tallahassee, send letters to Tallahassee and are engaged in the process,” said Rep. Bobby Payne, R-Palatka.

Girl Scouts from Palm Harbor meet with their representative, House Speaker Chris Sprowls.
Girl Scouts from Palm Harbor meet with their representative, House Speaker Chris Sprowls. [ FLORIDA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES - MEREDITH GEDDINGS | Courtesy of the Florida House of Representatives ]

Troop leader Kristen Crawford said the girls submitted their paperwork for the Silver Award back in August and had already been granted it, but they decided to continue bringing attention to the issue.

“We just kind of kept going with this because we felt like this is something we could actually make a difference on, is getting pet supplies on this tax-free list,” Crawford said.

The bill says that, from May 28 to June 10, these pet-related hurricane supplies will be tax-exempt: portable pet carriers and kennels for less than $100; bags of dry pet food for $30 and less; wet food for $2 a container or less; manual can openers for $15 or less; leashes, collars and muzzles for $20 or less; travel-sized food and water bowls for $15 or less; cat litter for $25 or less; cat litter pans for $15 or less; pet waste disposal bags for $15 or less per package; pet pads for $20 or less per package; hamster and rabbit bedding for $15 or less; and pet beds for $40 or less.

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Meghan Miller, 14, said she’s been through hurricanes before with her pets and it was a stressful experience.

“I had to get everything prepared. I spent like quite a bit of money,” said Meghan, who has a cat and a tank full of fish.

Chloe Hull, 15, and Kaitlyn Facchini, 14, were part of the project team with Meghan and Joleen.

As the group toured the Capitol on Thursday, they took the opportunity to practice their public speaking and other business skills, Crawford said. They’ve gotten good at the art of the firm handshake.

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