Luxury for Pets Mar05


Millions of people all over the world love and take good care of their pets as they derive much comfort and companionship from them. Our civilisation is judged, in part, by the way we treat our animals and it is right that we are conscious of animal welfare.


In the USA, Europe and Japan many people have time and means to take good care of their pets. Famous celebrities like Brigite Bardot have been at the forefront defending “rights” of pets. Some rich and eccentric people have even extended their passion for pets to generosity that most of us cannot even contemplate.


Countess Karlotta Liebenstein (German) died in 1992 leaving £60m to an alsatian called Gunther III. This fortune, worth £90m today, is for the benefit of Gunther’s son called Gunther IV. Gunther IV lives in palatial splendour served by a butler and a maid. Gunther enjoys chauffeur driven outings, beauty treatments and dips in a custom-built pool. He dines on steak & caviar.


Other super rich pets are Kalu, the Chimpanzee worth £40m, and Keiko the whale worth £15m. Kalu was the beneficiary of the will of Countess of Kenmore’s daughter, Patricia O’Neill.


Rich pets travel first class on airlines, stay in luxury pet hotels  and frequently attend fancy-dress parties in exotic locations. They use nothing but the best, including expensive shampoo and Hermes scarves. They go to training schools and “graduate”, celebrating their success in style. They have photo and film records of their activities and pay for stage-managed travel like Hollywood stars. They even “donate” funds to charitable causes and will their estate to their progeny!.   


We live in a democratic and liberal society and people are free to do as they wish as long as they do not inconvenience, harm or deprive others of their rights. In this respect, I cannot question the inheritance of these super rich pets. However, I wonder about the following:-


  1. Can these pets really appreciate the luxury and “experience” the taste of fine Caspian caviar and tender fillet from the best Scottish beef herds?

  2. Can these pets “feel” the difference between Egyptian cotton sheets and a cotton polyester blend from Marks & Spencer or “express” joy of the luxuriant feel of a Hermes silk scarf?

  3. Who decides when and with whom Gunther IV will mate and how is the inheritance carried forward?

  4. Who decides the disbursements of Gunther’s investments e.g. salary and expenses for butler, maid, trainer, chef etc

  5. Does the State charge a specifically higher Inheritance Tax for super rich pets? If not, why not?


All of us are aware of more than 2 billion people living on less than €1 a day. This half of humanity is deprived of the basic needs of life like water, sanitation, food and shelter. They die of hunger and preventable diseases like diarrhoea, malaria, and tuberculosis. Almost daily we see the horrific pictures of misery and death on our television screens. From Ethiopia to Afghanistan, children and women suffer and die knowing that we can help.  


Currently, obesity is a serious problem in the rich industrialised countries. We over feed our children and then ponder over taxing confectionery, fast and fatty foods. Cardiovascular diseases impose a heavy burden on our health delivery system and cause many unnecessary deaths. We seem to devalue the tradition of humility, modest consumption and self-reliance..


Is it appropriate for us to consider taxing the super rich pets in a way that will directly help the poor? Gunther, Kalu and Keiko would still continue to live in luxury. They would, like the super rich in our society, pay a “pet tax” both on income from their estate and on the value of their estate. They would also be liable to a high inheritance tax. A part of this taxation could be used for rescuing and housing stray pets abandoned by irresponsible people. It would be a “win win” situation for all concerned.