Pet Limit Laws
1.     SF SPCA


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Pet Limit Laws:
Closing the Door to Loving Homes          by San Fransisco SPCA
April 10, 2000
Proponents of pet limit laws argue that these ordinances are necessary to stop animal
neglect and abuse caused by people who take in more animals than they can
adequately care for. Others claim that pet limits are necessary to ensure sanitary
conditions, or to maintain safe and pleasant neighborhoods.
But are pet limit laws necessary to address abuse, neglect, unreasonable noise, and lack
of sanitation? Or, do they end up limiting the availability of loving homes and putting
the lives of dogs and cats at risk?
The San Francisco SPCA has considered the various claims made for strict pet limit laws
and found little in the way of evidence, or common sense, to support them. What we
found was that pet limit laws:
• are unnecessary to protect the well-being of people and animals
• are arbitrary and intrusive
• penalize responsible pet owners
• force many caregivers to stop providing care to homeless animals
• put the lives of even well cared-for animals at risk
At the same time that household limits discourage responsible individuals from
providing a good home for more needy animals, they do not prevent an irresponsible
one from acquiring unlimited animals. Unfortunately, caring can’t be mandated, and a
pet limit law will only end up punishing those who care.
Millions of compassionate people provide dogs and cats with food, love, and
shelter in their homes. Others may even put aside their own needs in order to
care for beloved pets. Still others work tirelessly to feed, foster, and
rehabilitate strays and unwanted abandoned animals, all at their own expense.
For every one of these caregivers, a pet limit law may exact a heavy toll. Each of these
individuals may face citations, fines, other penalties, and even confiscation of the
animals they love.
For these reasons, The San Francisco SPCA opposes legislation arbitrarily limiting the
number of pets a person can care for in their home.
Are pet limit laws necessary to address abuse, neglect, unreasonable noise, and lack of
sanitation? Do pet limit laws protect the well-being of people and animals?
In our view, they do not. Whereas one individual may be able to responsibly care for
and nurture several animals, another may be unable to care for even one. And if
problems arise, enforcement agencies already have ample ammunition at their disposal
in terms of animal welfare, health and property rights laws. In fact, unsanitary
conditions, excessive noise, and interference with property are all unlawful in virtually
every community—regardless of whether pets inhabit the premises or not.
Just how are pet limits determined? In one community, the limit might be two pets. In
others, four, five, eight, even twenty pets might be allowed. More often than not, the
number is arbitrarily chosen.
Enforcement is also arbitrary. In response to concerns about pet limit laws, some
communities have admitted that these ordinances “will be enforced on a complaint
basis, and pets which are maintained indoors or do not raise the ire of neighbors will
not generate enforcement.” While it may sound reassuring to some, this justification
leaves the door wide open for pet limit laws to be used as a weapon of retribution in
neighbor disputes over concerns totally unrelated to pets.
Laws that regulate a person’s behavior inside their home should seek an appropriate
balance between the public's safety and welfare and the individual's right to privacy.
But while pet limit laws are highly intrusive, there is little, if any, corresponding benefit
to public safety. What good is gained from an uncompromising prohibition against
more than a limited number of pets, particularly if they are confined to an owner's
property and create no problems? Certainly, if neighbors are totally unaware of their
presence, prohibiting pets does not in any way protect or maintain anyone's health,
happiness or peace of mind. And what about multi-pet households where neighbors do
not mind or even enjoy the presence of these animals? In fact, there is no benefit gained
from such a prohibition—nor is there likely to be any enforcement.
Should government pass laws that are not going to be enforced? Should communities
outlaw behavior that does not impact neighbors or interfere with the rights of others?
Local governments have embraced the position that because responsible multi-pet
households will not generate enforcement, these residents need not fear violating the
law. In essence, local governments are making outlaws out of normally law-abiding citizens and
telling them it is OK to break the law as long as they don’t get caught!
Passing laws that aren’t enforced or are enforced sporadically is unfair and
counterproductive. Few people are likely to comply with a pet limit law that isn’t
enforced. And those who voluntarily comply can probably be counted among the most
responsible pet owners in the community. There is little equity or sense in enacting a
law that only ends up penalizing the very people whose behavior is already exemplary.
And such a view undermines our respect for the law.
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Needless to say, truly irresponsible pet owners will not be affected. If the law is not
enforced, they are free to ignore it. If it is selectively enforced against them, they are
likely to surrender their animals, adding to the numbers of dogs and cats killed, or
abandon them, adding to some of the perceived problems the law was intended to
Many local jurisdictions enacting pet limit laws allow caretakers who have more than
the allowable number of pets to apply for an “exemption” permit. Therefore, these
jurisdictions claim, “responsible” pet owners need not fear the law. This view is
shortsighted and would put multi-pet households in a Catch-22: choosing between not
seeking a permit and violating the law on the one hand; or, applying for a permit, but
risking exposure and confiscation of their pets if they are denied. In other words, multipet
households would fear applying for a permit, because to do so would expose them
to penalties and possible loss of their beloved companions if denied a permit. And, in
some jurisdictions, the exemption permit requires a “kennel” license—which cannot be
granted in many neighborhoods due to zoning restrictions, no matter how
“responsible” the caretaker. In short, no exemption at all!
It is not uncommon for rescued animals, particularly those who are hard-to-place by
virtue of abandonment or abuse, to be in a “foster” environment for long periods of
time. Foster homes are in critically short supply in almost every community and it is
common for such homes to temporarily house more animals than the average pet
owner. In addition, there are countless Good Samaritans who feed and care for
neighborhood strays and feral cats. Many pet limit laws define these individuals as
“owners” for purposes of enforcing local ordinances. It is ironic that groups and
individuals rescuing and caring for homeless and unwanted dogs and cats (often at
personal expense) should be targeted for restrictive and punitive legislation.
Of greater concern, caregivers and rescue groups may be forced to stop caring for
foster pets or homeless cats, because to do so would violate the local pet limit law,
resulting in needy animals being denied care, and also leading to increased euthanasia
at taxpayer expense. By contrast, the maintenance of multi-pet households or the
feeding of homeless cats—including sterilization, food, and veterinary care—is
uniformly accomplished by private citizens at no cost to local government or taxpayers.
And pet owners targeted for enforcement may be forced to surrender their well caredfor
animals to local shelters where they, too, are at risk for euthanasia and where
taxpayers will have to foot the bill.
A town council on the East Coast recently expanded its animal control law to include a
provision making it illegal for any resident to own more than five cats. One resident, a
69-year old woman who cared for homeless neighborhood cats, was threatened with
fines for violating the law despite the fact that she had sterilized and vaccinated all the
cats. She was given two options by local authorities: turn away the cats who came to
her back door looking for food and water; or trap them and turn them over to the
animal control facility where they would likely be killed. For someone who very much
loved animals, this was no choice at all. Distraught by the threat of legal sanctions,
however, she was forced to comply.
And in a county neighboring our own, an elderly couple who cared for several
sterilized and well-cared for cats at their private residence were threatened with
citations and fines because of a pet limit law that allowed for the caring of only four
cats. Under threat, the cats had to be relocated to avoid the risk that they would be
impounded and killed at the local animal control facility. The cats lost the only home
and caregivers they had ever known, and the couple lost their beloved companions.
Just as pets already in homes may be threatened by limit laws, homeless pets awaiting
the chance for a loving new home are also at risk as potential adopters are discouraged
from adopting a stray or visiting the local shelter and saving a life.
For much of history, animals were considered mere commodities who pulled our
wagons, provided the products for our farms, herded our sheep, and kept our barns
free of mice. During the last century, however, socio-economic and moral changes in
society at large have produced changes in the status of animals as well. Many
animals—dogs and cats in particular—are now overwhelmingly companions instead of
servants. In addition, government laws and services have evolved from promoting
animals as property to protecting them as cherished pets.
At the same time, pets do so much good for the community: people of all ages, but
particularly the elderly and the young, enjoy their companionship. For single people,
dogs and cats can offer a welcome relief from loneliness. For children, an animal in the
home provides warmth and unconditional love, and teaches responsibility and
consideration for the needs of another creature. Those who suffer from disease or
injury often experience a therapeutic benefit from their presence. For the lonely, a pet
can provide an incentive to get up in the morning. Animals can also provide a sense of
safety and security, allowing many people freedom they would not otherwise have.
While pet ownership may not be a fundamental right, it is unquestionably an integral
aspect of our daily life—which cannot be dismissed lightly and should not suffer
unwarranted limits. In our view, there is little justification for targeting well-cared for
animals and putting them at risk for impoundment and euthanasia.

Ignorance, Greed, Ego, Fear of change
Pet limit laws were proposed and defeated in large and small cities throughout the U.S. in 2001, including Fort Thomas, KY, Richmond, VA, Cherry Hill, NJ, Gwinett Co., GA, and Springfield, IL. Along with nearly one thousand cities, counties and three states over the past five years alone. This success can be attributed to the efforts of concerned cat/dog owners and breeders, rescue groups and feral cat caretakers who spoke out strongly to their lawmakers.
The only reasons why pet limits still exist.  The present means have proven across the country  not to work at all.  The present means of limiting to 3 or 4 cannot be enforced because the licensing approach has been a total failure.  Then when good people end up with more pets and are willing and able to furnish the care and attention the pets need, they are faced with large fines, court dates and even watching as the city or county removes them   JUST TO WATCH THEM DIE ALONG WITH THE OTHERS.
Presently, the law will only allow compassionate, responsible homes to even become a recognized rescue by paying exhorbitant fees to the county or city, (sometimes up to $10,000 before being issued a ‘kennel permit’) assuring that the kill rate remain unchanged in that area. Thus, forcing good people to go underground  or take on another hobby or cause – again, leaving the numberofanimals who die to go unchanged.
The simple fact that ‘’That’s the way it’s been done for years’’ is not an argument you need to listen to. If your community deems them ‘property’ then they cannot impose the limits per our constitution. If, however, they should change their wording to use the term ‘guardian’ for the human caretaker and ‘companion’ for the pet, then you bring in another beneficial means of handling those humans who do not provide the proper and necessary care for the animals they are responsible for.
Over 1,000 communities and counties and three states have now rendered pet limitation laws to either be unlawful for constitutional reasons or raised the limits to more favorable levels to the residents, while changing the responsibilities of those who care for them. (i.e. not allowing pets to be chained as a sole means of containment, no breeding without a substantial breeders permit – regulating this by enforcing all papers to display this license in all ads for puppies and kitties and a severe penalty for any human who’s dog has bitten or attacked any other human or dog.)

Article from New Orleans, AP wires, May 16, 2003

Judge nixes law that limits Kenner residents to four pets


GRETNA, La. -- A state judge has overturned his own ruling and a Kenner ordinance limiting households to four pets.

The ordinance violates residents' property rights, Judge Alan Green ruled Thursday.

In February, he had upheld the ordinance and the conviction last year of Patricia Kruebbe, who has 12 cats and spends thousands of dollars a year on cat food and veterinary bills.

She said she burst into tears of joy when the ruling was announced, and she hopes it prompts Kenner officials to rewrite the city's law.

"I'm glad because it's going to allow people to take care of more than four animals and not be prosecuted," she said.

City attorney Kurt Garcia said he will appeal. In the meantime, he said, he will suggest that Kenner code enforcement officers put away their animal citation pads until the appellate court rules.

"It's significant to know that the judge originally agreed with Kenner. For whatever reason, he changed his mind," Garcia said.

Kruebbe was tried in the Kenner Mayor's Court for violating the ordinance, which limits residents to four domestic animals and four birds. It does not apply to animals less than six months old.

Kruebbe said she was fined $250 and given a 30-day suspended jail sentence and 30 days of probation.

Her attorney, Anthony Ligi, originally argued that the law infringes on the right to own property and was an arbitrary limit. Quality of care -- not the quantity of pets -- should be the deciding factor, he said.
We found over 1,000 communities who have deemed pet limits to be unconstitutioinal in the last 5 years and feel the degree of care, minus any nuisance problems for surrounding residents, should be the focus, especially with all the unnecessary deaths in this country.

Green initially ruled that Ligi did not prove that the city didn't have a valid reason for the law. He also said Ligi had not convinced him that the pet limit was unreasonable.

Ligi said he requested Thursday's hearing "to try to convince the judge that the statute really has no relationship to public safety and welfare and therefore is an inappropriate police power by Kenner."

Ligi said he could find only two other municipalities with pet limits: New Orleans and East Baton Rouge Parish, which prohibits more than 12 pets without a special permit. Jefferson Parish has no pet limit, Ligi said.

Jeff Dorson, regional director of the Louisiana Humane Society, said a New Orleans committee voted in April to recommend that the city change the law to one more like the one in Baton Rouge.

New Orleans now allows four pets; the new proposal would raise that to eight, with more allowed if the owner had a permit.
Massachusetts Federation of Dog Clubs - Limit Law position ...
... Unfortunately, politicians believe pet limit laws are a cure-all for all animal control
problems, but in reality they do nothing to address irresponsible owners
 This is a brief overview of the issue and a list of alternative solutions.
Pet Limitation Laws
By Merritt Clifton
Despite the great attention paid to anti-breeding ordinances since October 1990, laws have been enacted to fight pet overpopulation for decades. The original form of such legislation, and the simplest, involves attempting to limit the number of animals who may be kept by any one household. This approach has many politically popular features. First, it is easy to understand. Second, it sounds easy to enforce, usually via pet licensing. Third, it promises to cost the community nothing; enforcement costs presumably will be met by licensing fees and/or fines for noncompliance. Further, in many communities, pet limits merely codify rules that have been informally maintained by landlords for generations. Finally, pet limits allow governmental bodies to "address" pet overpopulation without actually having to do anything about it. In effect, pet limits throw the responsiblity for figuring out how to reduce pet numbers back to individual pet keepers, who may take no more action than they ever did.
Statutory limits on animal numbers have even been incorporated into some more aggressive legislation, including the celebrated San Mateo County anti-breeding ordinance. However, while pet limits may restrict the numbers of animals who officially live at any location, they do little or nothing to reduce the overall dog and cat population. Indeed, pet limits might even encourage pet overpopulation by providing an incentive for people whose pets have litters to give away the puppies and kittens as fast as they can to any takers, no questions asked, and to dump the animals if there are no takers, before they get big enough to be noticed by complaining neighbors.
Pet limits have one major virtue, in that they give animal control authorities a means of moving against "animal collectors," who adopt far more animals than they can humanely handle, often to prevent the animals from being euthanized in a shelter. Animal collectors tend to be elderly, socially isolated, delusionary, and generally well-regarded in the community for taking in otherwise unwanted dogs and cats, no matter how poor the standard of care. When prosecuted under ordinary anti-cruelty laws, animal collectors tend to get off easily­­and have an extremely high rate of recidivism, often estimated at 80% or more. For this reason alone, weary animal control departments often support pet limits­­especially if they haven't seen such limits fail in other communities.
But animal collectors are only a small minority of the people who may have more pets, especially cats, than pet limits typically allow. Cat keepers average four cats apiece in some parts of the U.S. two above the typical statutory limit. Thus cat keepers have turned out in force to fight proposed limits in communities including Syracuse, New York; Gloucester, Pennsylvania; and Akron, Ohio. In some cases, hours of anti-limit testimony from responsible pet keepers have made municipal counselors reluctant to consider any anti-pet overpopulation bills.
Where pet limits are in force, for instance in Denver, Colorado, many responsible pet keepers feel constrained from providing as many good homes as they otherwise might. Many others simply defy the law, since if animals are kept indoors, detecting limit violations can be very difficult. Animal control officers meanwhile discover that trying to enforce pet limits is both thankless and endless work. Consequently the limits have a way of being forgotten as quickly as possible.
Denver tried to get around this problem by prorating the number of animals per household according to the size of the property. The amount of floor space, however, might have been a more appropriate determinant of the pet "carrying capacity" of a house or apartment than the amount of yard space surrounding it. Certainly a three-story Victorian house with little or no yard space will provide more habitat for indoor cats than a modest two-bedroom ranch house, even if the latter is on a ten-acre lot.
Other communities have simply limited the number of animals who may be free-roaming. In May 1992, Natick, Massachusetts, not only adopted strict pet limits (and differential licensing), but also barred free-roaming pets altogether. Because free-roaming pets who have not been neutered often breed with strays and ferals, the latter provision may help somewhat to slow dog and cat overpopulation. But even indoor pets escape once in a while, and sexually intact dogs and cats are quite as capable of breeding indoors as out, if they get the opportunity.
Finally, pet limits can discourage animal rescuers, especially those who practice neuter/release to control feral cat populations. The neuter/release technique, imported from England and South Africa approximately a decade ago, consists of neutering feral cats, inoculating them against distemper and rabies (and sometimes other diseases), then returning them to their habitat, where they are kept under the supervision of volunteer feeders. The feeders insure that the cats don't become a public nusiance, and detect any fertile newcomers to each cat colony. Neuter/release is highly controversial, opposed as cruel by HSUS, but endorsed by other humane groups including Friends of Animals, Alley Cat Allies, and the Tufts Center for Animals and Public Policy. A demonstration neuter/release project completed by ANIMAL PEOPLE in 1992 and a national survey of cat rescuers undertaken later in 1992 by ANIMAL PEOPLE and the Massachusetts SPCA produced somewhat ambiguous results, from the humane perspective. (See "Cat Project Update," 9/92, and "Seeking the truth about feral cats," 10/92.) The survey did indicate, however, that neuter/release is effective in reducing the homeless cat population. About 75% of the respondents who had tried neuter/release reported that it stopped the growth of the feral cat colonies they observed. Neuter/release may have been included in an official animal control plan for the first time in Cape May, New Jersey. According to Cape May animal control department head John Queenan, neuter/release has helped to reduce the euthanasia rate in his jurisdiction to virtually zero.
As usually worded, pet limits have the effect of putting neuter/release rescuers at risk of being identified and prosecuted as the alleged "owners" of the cats they care for, inasmuch as they are feeding them, providing veterinary care, and often holding them in homes, at least overnight, before and after surgery. This problem could be avoided if existing pet limits were amended to include a special exemption for authorized rescuers, who would have to be registered with the local animal control department and would have to meet various other appropriate conditions, such as guaranteeing neutering, marking the cats in some way for identification purposes, and returning cats only to property where owners are willing to tolerate their presence.
Important Arguments you should know.
By Lawrence J. Barty Attorney at Law
First, a decision made by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, for example, is only binding in Penn., because the decision is based upon Penn. Constitution and statutes.  Constitutions and statutes in other States will never be identical, so at best this hypothetical Penn. decision might be used to persuade courts in another State to follow the same approach.  Even if a Penn. Court bases a decision on the federal Constitution, that interpretation does not bind other States.  Only a decision by the US Supreme Court can do that.

Second, the substantive issue of property rights under the federal and State constitutions is indeed in flux to some degree.  The current US Supreme Court has issued a series of decisions over the last several years that, taken as a whole, have elevated the rights of property owners to a limited degree versus State power.  This trend has typically shown up in cases examining zoning and other land usage questions.  It typically arises when a State imposes use restrictions that have the effect of making a person’s property less valuable – for example, forbidding property owners in a certain area from draining swampy ground, etc.  The Court has said that under some extreme circumstances, the restrictions could amount to constructively “taking” the property away from the owner – which could amount to a violation of the Fifth Amendment’s ban on taking property without due process of law.   In other words, if the local government adopted new rules that so restrict the potential use of your property that the property thereby becomes significantly less valuable, perhaps that government would owe you the difference in value.

Please note that this legal development, which is far from set in concrete, does NOT limit States’ powers to adopt use restrictions.  It simply might make a particular use restriction too expensive to be worth adopting.  Also, this theory would not apply to restrictions that were already in place when you acquired the property.

Rules prohibiting excessive barking, noise, smells, and other types of nuisances are measured under a different approach.  Every State possesses police powers that it can use to maintain peace, order and tranquility.  I have not heard of rules of that type being overturned as unconstitutional.  States have broad authority is this area of the law.  So long as a rule has at least some rational basis, a court must enforce it.  The burden is on a citizen to show that a particular rule is arbitrary and capricious, which historically has been very tough to accomplish.
Larry J. Barty Attorney

Additional Links and Resources
When Good Laws Go Bad... When properly written, these laws ensure that no one's pet cat can interfere with another person's enjoyment of property, such as odor or howling but harbor total disregard for the level of care they receive as opposed to their removal and subsequent death.
Animal Law  navigate the maze of legalese involved in all aspects of your pet's legal problems  or Regulatory Law includes things like leash laws, animal limit laws, city or county.
Resource Center
Oakton Park Apartments 3347 Willow Crescent Drive ,Fairfax City, VA 22030 1-888-263-1501   or 101 ,Reston, VA 20194 1-888-681-4868 35lb    20lb pet limit. not legally enforcable.

American Kennel Club ~ Animal Limit Laws: Better Alternatives

Ohio Valley Dog Owners oppose number limits

Ohio Valley Dog Owners handout on number limits

Ohio Valley Dog Owners

Massachusetts Federation of Dog Clubs & Responsible Dog Owners Position Statement on Limit Laws

National Animal Interest Alliance Quality or quantity?

Dog limit called unconstitutional in Minnesota

Dog limit called unconstitutional in Minnesota (same info as above, different site)

Pennsylvania Court Strikes Down Ordinance Limiting Number of Cats Per Residence

"Pet-limit" laws serve neither the animals nor the city

Pet Limitation Laws

Best Friends Pet Adoption ~~ Pet Limit Laws

American Dog Owners Association Policy

Dogs at Risk Sample letter to the Mayor of your city.

The Cat Fancier's Assoiation, Inc.

Also, lots of people recommended the Animal Legal Defense Fund at
Their resources page has some info, and a lawyer referral search feature
for various states. However this in an animal rights site, and the
lawyer that I found on this site wasn't up on pet limit laws being
unconstitutional. I am told it's because he's a member of PeTA, and they
aren't too helpful if it doesn't further their agenda. Much like the HSUS.
who recently made an offer to a gentleman in NV to create a nationwide campaign to stop zoophilia and promised to raise $1,000,000.  When asked how they would spend it, they brought the number down to $100,000 they would spend, but would apply the remainder to other programs.  Oh, like paying your top officials salaries of $200,000, $300,000 or more plus bonuses.
Or, contact the legal department of the akc. Go to
and when the page comes up, type in "dog limit laws" in the search box.
They can send you info that you won't find online unless you are a