How Many Dogs Are Too Many?

I'm a pariah among the dog fanciers in my community. Why? Because I testified in support of a new regulation to limit pet ownership to no more than a total of three dogs and/or cats, older than six-months of age, in one household.

The reason for the age threshold is to give people time to place any puppies or kittens that their family pet has.

Every major dog/pet organization I'm familiar with opposes such regulations or laws. That includes not only the animal rights people but mainstream groups such as the American Kennel Club (AKC).

So why would I break ranks and support it? Reality.

I support limitations on the number of pets in one household for the following reasons.

1. Nuisance laws are difficult and expensive to enforce.

In one instance in my town ? that has laws on nuisance dogs ? the city police had been to a house three times after calls from neighbors. In each instance, the dogs were quiet when they arrived and no ticket was issued.

That's the problem with the type of enforcement other dog-owner groups want. It requires catching the animal/owner in the act. Then both have the right to protest and appeal any fines or other punishments.

How much of a city's budget should go to this type of effort? It is much more cost effective to enforce limits on the number of pets as this can be more readily identified and controlled.

2. The worst pet owners are beyond caring about the law.

They fall into two categories. One is the drug addict, gang members or other criminal who breeds big, dangerous dogs for protection. An example is a homeowner who had 14 Pit Bulls in his metropolitan home.

The other is the disturbed pet collector such as a woman who had 40 cats in her suburban house. She had no recognition of why this should be a problem and was surprised that her neighbors called the police because of the odor from her house.

Neither of these types of pet owners are going to be deterred by a misdemeanor fine.

3. Dogs in packs are difficult to control.

The more dogs in the home, the more problems you have. Initially it may be as the dogs joust among themselves for positions in the pack. Even once that's been settled, outside events ? such as a dog coming back after a hospital stay ? can trigger another round of fighting for position.

There's always a danger the dogs may get lose. Having three or more dogs in one backyard can be intimidating to neighbors and other small pets in the adjoining homes.

A neighboring community has a dog park near a beach and people are often knocked down by packs of dogs. The dogs aren't attacking them; they're just running together and oblivious of their impact when they knock down a little one or older person.

When dogs are in groups, they work together and mob psychology rules. They may attack and kill smaller animals not for food but for sport or territory. Even dogs that live with cats will kill other cats when working in a dog pack outside the home.

4. Dogs in packs are more susceptible to illnesses.

As a former breeder, I truly appreciate how difficult it is to prevent the spread of diseases when you have many dogs in one home or kennel. There's a reason it's called "kennel" cough.

5. Some dog owners have lost perspective

One of the objectors to this new rule participates in a rescue organization. She had six people testifying on her behalf as to how needed her service is (I agree) and how well she manages her household of dogs.

None of the six people, however, live near her. When her neighbors testified, it was another story. She had started her rescue work by telling the homeowners group that she would have no more than six dogs at one time.

In one instance when the police were called to her home after a loose dog attacked a neighbor's pet and discovered she had 23 dogs there. This is just a typical suburban home ? not a rural or country area.

I'm sympathetic to wanting to care for abandoned and mistreated dogs but neighboring home owners have rights as well. If you've paid $600,000 for an 800-sq ft home in California (as our Sunday newspaper stated), you are going to be very concerned about maintaining property values.

Too many dog owners are oblivious to the rights of other people. Just walk in any city park and see how many people don't pick up after their dog.

I love dogs but I wish I could have more confidence in their owners. I recognize that I may be assigning many strays to an early death, but I can't waive a magic wand and make all pet owners responsible owners and care givers.

Limiting the number of pets in a household is a cost effective measure to solving true problems.

Louise Louis is a certified canine specialist and the creator of http://www.ToyBreeds.com, your online resource to Toy dog breeds.

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