Are You a Victim of Pet Limits?

  Update: This case has been continued. We will keep you posted on a new hearing date.

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,, 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.  She has paid $266 in fines. 

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 Click here to sign the petition to protest the pet limits and support fostering. 

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.



9 thoughts on “Are You a Victim of Pet Limits?”

  1. Once again we see that there are those who just will do anything to ensure that dogs and cats will be killed instead of trying to work with those people who foster until these creatures can be given a good home.

    Fosters are the backbone for animals awaiting a good home. My hat is off to them. Without them, there wouldn’t be millions of dogs and cats being killed each year, it would probably be in the billions!

    I have a lot of creatures myself. Dogs, cats and birds who people have thrown away. Who didn’t care what happened to their pets. Like myself there are thousands of others who feel that these creatures deserve the right to live a good life.

    It is sad that we continue to see people like Mayor John Soubasis who admits to not being ‘an animal person’. You don’t have to be an animal person to see that killing animals is wrong! And to take away the right for others to do something that will benefit these creatures is just downright selfish and self-serving!


  2. Are the Pet Limit Laws still unconstitutional in Pennsylvania? I had heard that this decision was reversed? Do you know if that is true?
    I also read an article from July, 2007 that Pittsburgh wanted to limit households to 5 pets. It is based on an ordiance from 1992, prior to when unconstitutionality of PLL in PA went into effect in 1994. Does anyone know what is happening in Pittsburgh with their attempt to limit pets? Below is their ordinance from 1992.


    No person or residence shall be permitted to own, harbor or maintain more than five (5) dogs or cats or any combination thereof within City limits. This section shall not affect any person or residence whose number of dogs, cats or any combination thereof exceeds the limit of five (5) prior to the effective date of this section and upon elimination of dogs or cats by adoption, death or any permanent removal from that person or residence, owners exceeding the limit of five (5) are not permitted to obtain additional dogs or cats. This section shall not affect kennels and catteries that have been granted a kennel/cattery permit by the City Animal Control Department nor shall it affect kennels registered with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
    (Ord. 29-1992, eff. 7-16-92)

  3. “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. She has paid $266 in fines.” These fines were actually paid for by Furrever Friends from donations given to us by the public for the animals. Since Smith’s situation is a problem based solely on her fostering status, the rescue is responsible to her for the fines she has incurred. Instead of going to the animals like citizens would like, the money is being used to pay fines because of the borough’s stubbornness to refuse that foster homes are necessary.

    “Furrever Friends claims trying to get a variance from the Planning and Zoning Board would be costly and is not likely to succeed.” At one time, a yellow sticky note stuck to an application for such a variance unofficially told us that the variance would never be approved since Smith’s house is zoned residential.

    “(No one had filed a nuisance complaint about Smith’s cats and there is no evidence she is a hoarder.)” An open invitation into Smith’s lovely home was ignored by both council and the town’s health department.

    “It makes sense to concentrate animal control resources on those animals who present a nuisance.” And it certainly makes no sense to punish good citizens who are also wonderful, responsible pet guardians who can handle multiple pets at a time.

    “Probably the worst effect of pet limits, though, is the loss of fosters for shelters and rescues.” To a rescue such as Furrever Friends, foster homes are really the only means we have in which to take in and save animals. Without foster homes, we would not be able to rescue any animals and without the wonderful foster home of Jennifer Smith’s, countless cats and a few dogs as well would never have been saved from various, awful fates!

    We need your support now! I hope you can help us make a difference.

    Jen Wesh
    Founder/Chairwoman of Furrever Friends Rescue & Volunteers ( )

    “I hope to make people realize how totally helpless animals are, how dependent on us, trusting as a child must that we will be kind and take care of their needs … [They] are an obligation out on us, a responsibility we have no right to neglect, nor to violate by cruelty.” -James Herriot

  4. This letter was written back in Sept ’06 … that’s how long this whole process has been going on. We were still pleading with the borough then to work with us and allow Jen Smith to continue to foster since we are attempting to do a service for the town. This was not allowed though and the drastic measure of having to pursue a legal way is what has gotten us where we are today. Read on for info on the start of all this, understand why we are so frustrated & desperate and please support us …

    Regarding Furrever Friends Rescue & Volunteers’ Jennifer Smith & animal fostering

    Dear Mayor Soubasis and Council,

    I am writing to urge you to reconsider your feelings and decision regarding the foster home for cats that Jennifer Smith of Furrever Friends Rescue & Volunteers (FFRV) has been unselfishly providing. I wish you to also reconsider a foster home exemption in regards to the pet limit law. Your proceedings thus far have made little sense to me and seem as if you are taking the simplest route in order to resolve this – stone walling us.

    When Jennifer Smith first received notification of the complaint, a letter was put together in response. This letter explained that Ms. Smith is committed to getting animals off the streets -including your own town’s- by fostering for New Jersey’s registered non-profit Furrever Friends Rescue & Volunteers (FFRV), that these animals were only temporarily in her care and we had hoped the matter would be resolved. Our explanation was dismissed. Another letter was sent to you, Mayor Soubasis, personally to notify you and try to clear this up as well. Again, we were dismissed. Those wishing to explain, educate and work with council in order to resolve this for the animals and for town residents showed up at August’s meeting as suggested by you, Mayor Soubasis, only to be treated as aggressors. Invitations to Jennifer Smith’s house in order for it to be inspected were ignored. Letters of support and in explanation of foster homes were sent in from various sources for September’s meeting, but were surprisingly not shared with council. Now you are trying to pass the issue along to Zoning. The Committee repeatedly commends our efforts and in the next breathe state you are unwilling to accommodate us or come to some sort of compromise. You can see why I am obviously frustrated and questioning your rationale.

    First let me state once more that, foster homes are an extremely important aspect of animal rescue as it relieves the burden on county shelters and gives the animals in foster care an opportunity to live in a home environment. Not only is this beneficial in that the animals get much more attention than they would get in a shelter, but it also eliminates the animals being euthanized due to overcrowded conditions in county shelters. Foster Homes are part of ALL area animal rescues, including the NJ SPCA, Camden County Animal Shelter, Gloucester County Animal Shelter, Salem County Animal Shelter, Burlington County Animal Shelter, Animal Welfare Association, Animal Adoption Center, Almost Home and the list goes on.

    FFRV through foster homes such as Ms. Smith’s has taken in animals from various situations, including ones off your town’s streets. These cats are taken care of medically, sometimes this is as simple as vaccinating, testing and sterilizing them, sometimes this means covering costs for sick or injured animals, those abused by people or left to starve. This is all out of our own pockets or through donations at no cost to the taxpayers to help ensure that the community stays a resourceful and safe place for the people and the animals who live there. Why would you want to hinder this much needed service that Jennifer Smith is providing? She is not a hoarder with a large number of uncared for cats that are out of control. These cats do not go outside, make noise, or pose a threat to neighbors while they are temporary cared for by Ms. Smith. We have tried to politely, privately explain what an invaluable service your town resident, Jen Smith, performs for a multitude of homeless animals and the community, but that has not seemed to get your attention or consideration enough to make any sort of positive change.

    With the explanation of fostering and its importance, aside, let me one more time state that Jennifer Smith does not own these animals and they are not permanent residents in her home. I am mystified as to how you, Mayor Soubasis, and several of the Committee members continue to want to label the animals being fostered by Jen Smith as her own when clearly you know those animals are on her premises temporarily until adopted – after all, that is the essence of fostering. Why is the Committee thinking so negatively in that the law is the law and trying to impose the “ownership law/ruling of only three animals”? Such justification is wrong and carrying it out in such a manner is virtually illegal as we’ve already established Jen Smith does NOT own the foster cats temporarily in her care.

    I understand that there have been issues in South Jersey recently with people being discovered hoarding animals. However, Furrever Friends Rescue & Volunteers is a very responsible organization that is well aware of how many fosters their volunteers, such as Ms. Smith, can handle and they do not let themselves become overwhelmed. We have even gone into such environments to remove animals, so we understand the nightmare that these houses truly are. The animals in FFRV’s care are well taken care of. If mature enough, all are sterilized, vaccinated, tested, de-wormed and de-fleaed. All our cats are seen by a licensed veterinarian when coming into our foster program as well. As discussed at August’s meeting, the members of this group are more than individuals working at a common goal, we’re friends! We monitor each other and the well being of the animals we have in our temporary care. While I can fully understand the concern for this being a Department of Health issue, the house of Jen Smith is not a health issue, which you would know had you accepted Jennifer Smith’s invitation to inspect her home. Actually, the only health risk that may come about from this would be the one posed if these strays were allowed to remain on the streets, where they are not vaccinated or sterilized and pose a risk to your town

    At the first meeting discussing this matter, the fact that there is no limit to animals under the age of six months was brought up. Your personal explanation to this, Mayor Soubasis, was that it was to allow any resident whose pet has a litter ample time to find new homes for what the ordinance would deem to be an “excessive” number of animals. Am I to find comfort in the fact that people who do not fix their animals are given a maximum of 6 months in order to place their pet’s offspring and yet you deny anyone willing to help homeless adult animals in Brooklawn by fostering no time should they exceed 3 animals in their home? Honestly, I’m a bit insulted that you would allow such an exception for people that are only forcing me to continue my work to place homeless animals due to their overpopulation and the fact they are in all likelihood sending these young animals off unfixed only to produce more animals in a few months. Essentially, you are forcing us to rescue, but denying us to do so with the ordinance.

    Finally, the fact that you are “not an animal person”, Mayor Soubasis, means little to me or these matters. Stating this as a reason for you being uneducated in the matters of what rescue groups do or why foster homes are so critical is one thing. However, you repeatedly said this in a fashion that came across as your reasoning for not looking into ways to allow foster homes in the town. This is inexcusable! Though you, Mayor Soubasis, may not be an animal person yourself, many of your residents, the people you stated are represented by you, are animal people or embrace the importance of what groups like FFRV does. Not to mention, I would think that just because you are not an animal person does not mean that you are blind to the animals on the street or the town money that goes towards handling strays.

    Many extenuating factors here deserve to be looked at carefully and reevaluated by the Council. It all boils down though to: would you rather have sick, dying animals, wandering around or well cared for, adoptable pets in foster homes that may exceed the number of three?

    I am asking the mayor and the council to allow foster homes in the town of Brooklawn. I am asking that you take a step back and look at the society we live in as a whole and reconsider this. I am hoping that maybe the Council could look more at the generosity of what Furrever Friends Rescue & Volunteers’ foster home at Jen Smith’s offers and diminish the weight of the senseless noisemakers. I am urging you and the Council to thoughtfully look into this matter with the main intention of exploring what alternatives there are. I am sure that with some time, effort, education and by putting all our brains together, we can come up with some sort of solution that will benefit both the town and rescued animals in the care of Ms. Smith. Believe me when I say that the eyes of the world are watching you – below are just some signatures of those supporting Furrever Friends Rescue & Volunteers, Jennifer Smith, foster homes and the feelings that I have that you must make more of an effort to resolve this matter.

    I hope a sensible and reasonable resolution will be at the end of this matter.

    Jennifer Wesh
    Chairwoman of Furrever Friends Rescue & Volunteers

    “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.” – Albert Einstein

  5. Pet limit laws are passed in an effort to control nuisances and stop hoarding and backyard breeding.PERIOD!!!!!
    All though she may have been well intended the law is the law because of what other people have done before her.

  6. just because it is a law does not make it right…it is narrow minded people like you who cause the problems for those of us trying to give a better life for animals in need….

  7. Well said. I am tired of all the anti-animal people. If there were just humans on this planet it would more scary and violent than it is now.

  8. Miriam
    I am also surprised that PA had a law banning pet limits. This year, 2010, I asked our codes officer about the number of pets allowed in our township, West Whiteland, and he told me the limit was 5 with other provisions about the types of pets allowed. I wonder if this township ever allowed unlimited pets. We are about an hour west of Philadelphia.

  9. Just because some people may not take care of there petes does not give anyone the right to punish the many people who love and care for there pets. So keep your opinion to yourself. And the hoarding problem has nothing to do with it. Hoarding is i medicale issue!!!!!

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