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Limit Laws

What are Limit Laws and What's Wrong With Them?


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"Limit laws" are designed to protect people and pets, but animal advocates oppose limit laws because they hurt so many innocent people and pets. There are better ways to achieve the same goals.

What are "Limit Laws"?

Limit laws are laws which limit the number of cats, dogs or other pets that a household can have. They are usually local laws, passed on the municipal or county level of government, so the limits often vary even within a single state. The limit is often three or four animals.

What is the Purpose of Limit Laws?

Limit laws are supposed to protect the animals and public from health and sanitation problems, nuisance, neglect or abuse situations. If someone has more animals than they can take care of, their animals may become neglected or abused. The animals may not get sufficient veterinary care and suffer with illnesses or injuries. Disease spreads rapidly if a large number of animals are closely confined. The animals may breed, making a bad problem worse. If the person is unable to clean up after the animals, the house could become very dirty and smelly, attracting cockroaches, flies, mice and rats. Barking can also be a problem for neighbors.

Limit laws are also sometimes used to address dog fighting, cockfighting, or hoarding.

What's Wrong with Limit Laws?

Limit laws hurt innocent people and animals because they are both overinclusive and underinclusive. The laws are overinclusive because problems such as disease, neglect and odors are not a problem if the animals are well cared-for. Such laws are also underinclusive because one does not need a large number of animals in order to create nuisance, abuse or sanitation problems. While some people are perfectly capable of caring for twenty cats in their homes, others are overwhelmed with only one. If someone is forced by limit laws to give up some animals, it leads to more animals being abandoned at shelters or just let loose.

See also What's Wrong with Breed Specific Legislation?.

What is the Solution?

There are other laws that address every issue that limit laws attempt to address, without taking pets away from good homes. If there is a problem with sanitation, there are state and local health and nuisance laws that deal with that problem. If animals are not being cared for properly, animal cruelty statutes address issues of neglect and abuse. If the neighbors are bothered by barking, local sound or nuisance ordinances address that issue.

Limit Laws and Animal Rights

While animal rights advocates tend to oppose keeping pets and do not want to see pets being bred, bought or sold, they believe that we have a duty to care for the animals who are alredy here. This is why animal advocates who oppose pet keeping might have some rescued animals. In order to properly care for these animals, most animal advocates oppose limit laws because they do nothing to protect people and animals, and can lead to more animals being abandoned.

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