Are You a Victim of Pet Limits?
|January 5, 2008||Posted by russmead under Regulation of Pets|
Original report: Mark March 11, 2008 on your calendars. That is when Jennifer Smith, resident of Brooklawn, New Jersey, and a Board member and foster for Furrever Friends, http://www.petfinder.com/shelters/ffrv.html, will appear in New Jersey Superior Court to argue the Brooklawn pet limit law is unconstitutional.
Smith has been cited by the Borough of Brooklawn and found guilty of violating the pet limit law by having more than 3 animals in her residence. Â She has paid $266 in fines.Â
At the time she was cited, Smith was fostering 8 cats. She was also cited for failing to have a site plan.
Before Smith was cited, the borough officials had encouraged her to apply for a zoning variance that would allow her to operate a shelter from her home. Furrever Friends claims trying to get a variance from the Planning and Zoning Board would be costly and is not likely to succeed. Furrever Friends points out that last September, 2007, the town rejected a proposed foster exception to the pet limit law. Mayor John Soubasis is quoted as saying, "I am not an animal person."
Now Smith and Furrever Friends will try to have the pet limit law invalidated.
If you have been a victim of pet limit laws, Smith and Furrever Friends would like to hear from you. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org Click here to sign the petition to protest the pet limits and support fostering.Â
Pet limit laws are passed in an effort to control nuisances and stop hoarding and backyard breeding. (No one had filed a nuisance complaint about Smith’s cats and there is no evidence she is a hoarder.)
But restrictive pet limits are often found to be ineffective, unenforceable and unrelated to the problems that may be created by pet ownership. The Animal Law Coalition rejects pet limits as a solution to nuisances created by irresponsible pet owners.
Pet limits really do not have anything to do with nuisances such as dogs running loose, barking too much, or defecating in public places or private yards and gardens. A household with 2 dogs who bark or howl and chase passing cars may present a nuisance while an owner of 4 or 5 dogs generally kept inside may not bother the neighbors at all. It makes sense to concentrate animal control resources on those animals who present a nuisance.
Also, pet limits are not a solution for hoarding. Hoarding is a mental illness best addressed by aggressive enforcement of an anti-hoarding ordinance and animal cruelty laws; hoarders should be identified and banned from having any animals. For more on hoarding, click here.
Certainly there is no evidence pet limits have stopped the breeding of companion animals. Breeders for profit are not generally subject to these laws, and owners that breed for their animals, simply give the offspring away or abandon them.
Courts in Pennsylvania, for example, have found pet limits unconstitutional. Commonwealth v. Creighton, PA. Cmwlth., 639 A.2d 1296 (1994). The Court found there was no proof of a rational relationship between the number of animals per household and the government objective of controlling nuisances.
In communities with pet limits, it is believed far fewer people comply with licensing requirements. In fact, "30% is the number most often cited by animal control agencies as the high end of the compliance curve. Many communities have a lower compliance rate." National Animal Interest Alliance, Responding to the Data: A Guide to Constructing Successful Pet Friendly Ordinances, March 2005.
As a result, communities lose licensing fees and in the end have still not controlled the numbers of pets. There is actually an increased health risk to the community from animals which have not been licensed and may not have been provided with rabies or other vaccinations. And threats of increased penalties and stricter enforcement are usually not feasible; most municipalities have few resources to spend on drastically increasing compliance with a pet limit ordinance. And even if they do, there are less resources, then, for controlling nuisance behavior. These resources are, of course, further reduced if people avoid licensing their pets and thus fail to pay licensing fees. Also, the threats of more penalties and stricter enforcement tend to alienate responsible pet owners. Responsible pet owners who are affected by restrictive pet limits laws stop seeing animal control as an asset, further reducing the effectiveness of animal control. In short, pet limits unfairly target everyone regardless of their behavior.
Probably the worst effect of pet limits, though, is the loss of fosters for shelters and rescues. Fostering is a key component in the effort to reduce companion animal overpopulation and particularly, shelter intake. With the loss of fosters or strict limits on animals they can house temporarily, pet limits actually increases the burden on local shelters and animal control in caring and finding homes for or euthanizing these animals. It also means animals which could be placed in homes, for example, cats, are just left on the streets, creating a nuisance.