Under the proposed law that was discussed by city lawmakers on June 12 of this year, a maximum of five pets, consisting of any combination of dogs and cats, can be owned or cared for by a single household. Since the Leckers have three cats in addition to their four dogs, even the revised law would have caused them to face fines if it were passed.
Unfortunately, the Leckers’ situation typifies the plight faced by many other pet owners, animal foster caregivers and rescues regardless of their home states. Many cities and municipalities have ordinances that restrict the number of pets that can be maintained in a household without regard to the ability of a particular household to provide adequate care for its pets.
Common defenses for laws that limit the number of pets a person can own or care for include that such laws prevent an excessive number of noise complaints due to a household’s pets and that they prevent animal hoarding. Proponents also claim that pet limit laws also protect animals from being in abusive, neglectful homes.
The truth is, a person who is abusive or neglectful towards animals would be so regardless of the number of pets he or she had. And these laws do nothing to protect animals from people who have a psychological condition that makes them prone to hoarding anything, including animals. Finally, homes with ten pets are not necessarily noisier than homes that house one or two animals.
Certain cities have pledged to enforce their pet limit laws only in instances where a complaint has been filed against someone who has more than the permissible number of pets living in his or her home even if law enforcement officials know that the person owns an “excessive” number of pets. So basically, if someone with a grudge against a neighbor calls in a complaint against another neighbor who owns many animals, the second person would be subject to legal action not because he or she didn’t care for his or her pets, but because the person didn’t get along with his or her neighbor. Who suffers in this scenario? The pets.
When pets are displaced from a home deemed to have too many pets to remain in compliance with a municipality’s pet limit law, they are often placed in a publicly funded shelter instead of being allowed to stay in the home they know and love. As a result, animals who actually have homes take up space and resources that a shelter usually needs to provide for animals who are truly homeless, and the shelter pays the ongoing expenses, expenses that would otherwise be paid by the displaced pets’ responsible owners, related to these animals for indeterminable periods of time.
Instead of passing and enforcing pet limit laws which potentially punish people for providing safe, loving homes for as many pets as they possibly can, cities should evaluate the ability of individuals to care for their respective pets on a case-by-case basis, as needed. As the No Kill Advocacy Center claims, “pet limit laws discourage responsible individuals from providing a good home for more needy animals, but will not discourage an irresponsible one from acquiring unlimited animals.”
All of us, including the officials responsible for drafting and enforcing the laws that govern the cities and towns in which we live, need to do what we can to protect pets whether they are our own personal property or not. Unfortunately, pet limit laws have the potential to put pets who belong to responsible families at risk to be displaced from their homes or even euthanized.