Three Dog Limit?
July 17, 2009 - 4:12 PM | by: Brooks Blanton
When it comes to man's best friend, how many is too many? Cities and towns across the country struggle with how to balance the rights of pet owners with their neighbors who complain about too many dogs. Many cities have recently enacted or are currently considering ordinances that would limit the number of pets per household within city limits, unless the owner applies for a special license. Earlier this month the Reading, Pennsylvania City Council set the pet limit to six. In May the Village of Wheeling, Illinois recently said four was enough and the city of San Marcos, Texas was a little more generous saying four dogs or a combination of seven dogs and cats was plenty of pets for one house.
The City of Jacksonville, Alabama recently considered an ordinance that would put a three pet limit on any homes inside the city. Some homes housed at least 15 dogs and last year one home was found to have 34 dogs inside. While a few houses seemed to be bursting at the seams with dogs and cats and their neighbors complained loudly, the mayor asked the city attorney to draft an ordinance limiting the number of pets to three.
"It's a really tough issue because it's one of those things where your rights end and mine begin," said Jacksonville Mayor Johnny L. Smith. "People have a right to have dogs and we don't want to limit that. Their neighbor has the right to be comfortable on their premises as well."
Public meetings filled up after word got out that the council was considering a cap similar to those found in other Alabama cities. Some residents who owned just a few pets joined those who had several, to let the council know how they felt about the idea.
"The government's got no right to tell me how many dogs I can have," one angry dog owner told the city council. "This is a free country and that's what it's based on."
Many residents who own more than the proposed limit say as long as they take care of their animals, the city shouldn't limit how many they can have. Others saw the proposed ordinance as a big-brother style government intrusion on rights. But Kurt and Jill Turner, who live next to a house with at least 15 dogs, see it differently.
"There's an old saying," Kurt Turner, a city firefighter, told the council and fellow residents at a July meeting. "Trouble isn't trouble isn't trouble until trouble is at home. And this is at my home."
The Turners say city residents who opposed the ordinance should try living next to the noise and smell that comes along with 15 dogs in one yard. They say simple pleasures of home ownership, like kids playing in the backyard or cookouts, is not possible when you have foul smells and constant barking coming over the fence.
"I would like to invite any of you to come over and have an evening on our back porch without gagging or puking," Jill Turner said as she addressed the crowd. "We've complained to the police, we have made informational reports with the street department, the dog catcher."
Despite the Turner's comments, city leaders killed the idea this week. But they warn this isn't the first time and probably won't be the last time they have to deal with too many dogs and cats. Mayor Smith says it's one of the most prominent issues that small and medium sized cities struggle with and says he won't be surprised if the Jacksonville City Council to deal with houses overrun by cats and dogs again.
"When you buy a home you need to be comfortable when you walk into your back yard as well," Smith says. "Too much government restricts folks, but if it interferes with other's peoples rights then maybe we're going to have to do something."