Many cities across the country have these, laws stating you can only own a certain number of pets. Some limit number of dogs, cats, or both. Another form of limit law limits the breeds or breed mixes you can own. Since the latter falls under breed specific legislation as well, we won’t cover that here, that deserves an article all its own.
Why do cities put these restrictions in place?
Generally cities start looking into limit laws when they start receiving complaints. These complaints range from barking dogs, feral cats, owners not picking up after their pets and more. For these cities putting a limit on the pets you can own sounds like a nice quick fix to the problem.
There have even been cases where wanting to reduce cruelty is given as a reason for a limit.
However a limit law doesn’t get to the root of the problem, irresponsible ownership and education.
The true effects of limit laws.
What happens when a limit law is put in place and who do they really effect?
Depending on whether or not the city decides to grandfather in people owning more than the proposed limit, a limit law could lead to more animals being dumped in shelters or abandoned on back roads.
Owners fearing they’ll be caught may refuse to take their pets to the vet and they certainly won’t register with the city. This leads to animals receiving poor health care, jeopardizes rabies control programs, and cities lose funds generated by licensing fees.
Limit laws also take a toll on already overburdened shelter systems. Good responsible owners may be unable to adopt a new pet because they are at the limit. It also limits the number of foster homes that could be used; foster homes are a great alternative to a shelter kennel.
In reality limit laws generally effect responsible pet owners, as the responsible pet owners are the ones who will in the end abide the law.
Why wouldn’t a limit law “fix” all the complaints and animal control problems?
The simple answer: Those that were being irresponsible before are likely to continue. They may decide to totally disregard the new law, after all most cities already have nuisance laws in place which were already being broken.
A limit law won’t stop animal abuse; you can abuse one animal just as much if not more than you can twenty.
Hoarders. Limit laws do nothing to stop hoarding. Animal hoarding isn’t a defiance of the law problem, it’s a mental disorder. Yes these people may be breaking a limit law and many are probably very aware of that fact. However hoarders need psychiatric help, not laws.
If not limit laws, then what?
First and foremost, stricter enforcement of current animal laws. Generally these include leash laws, clean up laws, requirements for licensing, and nuisance barking laws.
If a city has these in place already they are well on their way, all they need is enforcement. If a city already had such laws in place and weren’t enforcing them, they can’t expect to be able to enforce a limit law either. Limit laws are harder to enforce and cost more to do so.
Education. Some people are simply unaware of what it means to be a responsible owner and a good pet owning neighbor. Persons having multiple complaints filed against them could be sent to a Responible Ownership class. A class like this could generate more funds for the city and possibly allow for a “clean slate” for that owner.
Cities can also encourage people to not only license their pet but to also attend training classes by offering a discount on the license fee for dog’s who have passed the Canine Good Citizen test.
Limit laws aren’t the answer to animal control issues. They are hard and expensive to enforce, put strain on shelters and rescues and punish the already law abiding citizens.
Number of animals doesn’t determine responsible ownership, you can be irresponsible with one pet or you can take marvelous care of twenty.
Does your city have a limit law or are they considering one? If your city already has a limit in place what is it and how effective do you think it is? If they are considering a limit law what do you think about the proposal?
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