Understanding the Limits on Limit Laws
Limit laws place arbitrary
limits on the number of animals that an individual may own or that can
reside at a location. Sometimes limit laws will affect only one species,
other laws place limits on the total number of animals regardless of
species. These laws might be found in the animal control laws, land use
laws, or regulations involving permits and licensing. Private restrictions
such as rental agreements and homeowners associations can also restrict the
number of animals and place other animal restrictions upon the renter/owner
of the property.
Introduced as a solution to the animal
control woes of euthanasia in shelters, nuisance, abuse and neglect; limit
laws are rarely effective and are frequently add to the problem they were
intended to solve. More than half of all households own pets. Yet only a
small percentage of households contribute to the problems seen by animal
Limit laws attempts to address
irresponsible pet ownership but fails miserably. An owner who is
irresponsible will be irresponsible whether they own 10 pets or one. An
abuser doesnít need numbers to abuse. The laws are difficult and expensive
to enforce. Certain limit laws have been struck down by courts but limiting
the right to own animals has not been held illegal.
What Limit Laws Really Do
- Artificially restricts the available homes for
animals and deter adoptions increasing the imbalance between adoptable
homes and homeless animals.
- May add to the number of animals in shelters when
owners must choose between their pets and breaking the law.
- May force owners to avoid compliance with
regulations and avoid taking their pets to veterinarians for vaccinations
and treatment which is contrary to public safety concerns.
- Eliminates the personal choice of people to
determine how many animals they have and may remove their privacy as well.
- Methods of enforcement can be expensive and
invasive. If the law is enforced only by complaint, neighbor is turned
against neighbor and such laws may be used to leverage a completely
unrelated complaint between neighbors.
- Unfairly treats responsible owners, rescuers and
breeders by targeting all owners because of the actions of a small
minority of pet owners.
What Limit Laws Donít Accomplish
- Eliminate the imbalance between available homes and
adoptable animals in shelters.
- Prevent hoarding which is caused by a psychological
problem and unlikely to be cured by legislation.
- Prevent nuisances which is a responsible pet
ownership problem. A wide variety of animals can be kept without creating
a nuisance at all.
- Prevent abuse. Abusers will find victims without
respect to ownership issues.
- Grandfather all violators. This is the choice of the
jurisdiction implementing the laws and there is no guarantee of exemption
of excess numbers existing prior to enactment of the limit law.
- Enhance and enforce animal controls laws, nuisance
regulations and cruelty laws that require owners to treat others and
animals in a respectable manner.
- Develop and enforce leash and confinement laws to
prevent or penalize roaming dogs.
- Develop public education programs to teach people
about the laws and responsible pet ownership.
- Sentencing in the form of mandatory responsible pet
ownership classes or community service at an animal shelter rather than
Having effective, enforceable laws on the books is much
more valuable than passing ineffective laws that merely give the appearance
of a solution. Many effective alternatives are already laws on the books.
Such laws usually just need beefing up to make them both effective and
enforceable. Very few municipalities have the manpower and fiscal resources
to effectively enforce limit laws. Ordinances that are not both effective
and enforceable are failures.