Go into Business with Your Pet

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — When Dee Dee Murray, a Seattle artist, taught her dog to paint, she never dreamed putting a paintbrush in the Dachshund's mouth would also help her own business.

"When I would paint, she would always come up and lie beside me, and I just wondered if she wanted to paint," Murray says. "She wasn't one who I could just put a brush in her mouth — it took about two months — but once she learned, there was no stopping her."

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The then 10-year-old Hallie was already working up doggy masterpieces when she suddenly developed an eye condition that caused her to go blind. Hallie eventually returned to the canvas, though, and Murray, selling the works for $100 each, has raised more than $13,000 for a local animal rescue. The dog enjoys painting so much that Murray has to limit her time with the brush so she doesn't get burned out.

What's even more surprising to Murray, though, is how Hallie's career has helped her own. I have ridden a bit on Hallie's coattails through this," Murray says. "Last year I would say she increased my dog portrait commissions by about 30%."

About 50% of Murray's income is made through paintings of wildlife and commissioned pet portraits. She also owns a business with her brother doing Web design and selling pinewood derby cars.

Jeanette Dugas, a CPA with Dugas & Dugas CPA in Winter Haven, Fla., says that if you're going to go into business with your pet, you need to make sure everything is completely documented. "The IRS looks at pets as a personal expense and generally doesn't like to see them deducted," Dugas says.

There are exceptions to every rule and service dogs are one big exception. The rules for service dogs are generally very liberal, allowing almost all of the expenses associated with the dog to be deducted.