Pittsburgh’s Pet Limit Law — Why hasn’t anyone brought this up?

Ahem. From the Pittsburgh Municipal Code:


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)

I haven't heard this mentioned at all during the whole cat licensing debate.  I spoke with the staff at three different City Councilpersons and none of them had heard of this.

Here's the deal — my dogs are licensed and thus “on the books” whereas my cats are not.  If I have more than two cats, I go over the limit.  So, if I license my cats, I open myself up to fines or penalties for breaking the pet limit law. 

Take it a bit further … if you face fines and penalties, perhaps you would need to get rid of a pet or two.  Where would they go?  Would Jim Motznik adopt them?  No, inevitably some would end up at the shelters and some would end up on the streets. 

There's more.  In 1994, PA Commonwealth Court struck down the five-pet limit law of the Borough of Carnegie because it did not connect owning five pets with creating a public nuisance or adversely affects the safety, health and welfare of the community.  No one can arbitrarily determine that the pet conditions of five is okay whereas six puts ya over the top.   Here's a pet site with a detailed explanation and the court ruling. 

Now, this is just me.  If I tried to be a law-abiding citizen and licensed my cats, I might get cited for violating the pet limit law.  I would not turn my pets over to a shelter.  I would not take them to visit Uncle Jimmy. I would not let them roam loose in Manchester and toss some kibble over the fence every day.

I would sue the City. 

Yes, that's right. I would drag the City into court based on the 1994 decision and probably win.  Tax dollars would be spent defending the City.  I doubt the cat licensing fees would cover those expenses. 

There are hundreds of households with more than five pets that are perfectly neat and clean and humane.  My understanding is that state law permits up to 15 pets (maybe it is 18) and then requires a kennel license.  A kennel license brings a greater level of scrutiny to the pet owner.  Thus, the municipal duty of protecting the health and welfare of the community is preserved without compromising the liberty of citizens to self-determine how many pets they can care for within the requirements of the law (and sanity).  Please don't comment about hoarders.  That's a whole different pond of koi.  Cat licensing and pet limit laws aren't going to do a damn bit of good for hoarders.

Licensing cats is a waste of tax payer dollars.  Put those monies into spay/neuter and trap/release programs.  Put those monies into education campaigns about spaying and neutering AND keeping your cat inside. 

Maybe giant billboards with Luke stretched out in the Barkalounger with a few cats draped artfully across his lap while he watches the Stillers. 

So, call your Councilperson and let them know that a cat licensing law is going to trigger a nasty mess over the pet limit law.  Is that really where we should be investing energies?  Call Payne and Carlisle.  I bet there are dozens of little old ladies with 6 or 7 cats in their districts.  Call Koch.  Lots of dog/cat households on the Southside.  Tell Peduto and Harris you don't want your mother to be dragged down to court because she has 7 animals and give both more ammunition to fight a stupid law.

My understanding is that most of the calls have been coming from outside the City.  That's not very helpful.  Get your City people to make a call. It takes five minutes b/c they barely listen to you anyway.  Well, they listen a bit more attentively than Specter's people.  But your boss won't even notice you doing it.  Seriously.  Call. 

And save up a few pennies for my legal expense fund.  I'm not going down without a fight.


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  • Has anyone brought up common sense?
    The number of dogs in PA that requires licensing through the Bureau of Dog law is not 15 but 26 and that figure is calculated based upon on a cumulate 12 month total, e.g., you might have 10 dogs, 5 have litters of 5 puppies each – even if ALL puppies were sold, the cumulative total 10 + 25 = 35 – would require a PA Bureau of Dog Law kennel license.
    Unless you've ever managed a hoarder and/or an individual who is irresponsible and refuses to spay and/or neuter their pets, you simply have no idea how quick 2 cats ( a male & female) – in LESS THAN 14 MONTHS – can easily become 8 (parents + 6 kitties) and those 8 (even if only 1/2 of them are females/4 x 6) – within 7 months – (as 7 month old kittens CAN become pregnant) CAN QUICKLY TURN INTO 32!
    To take a position on a pet limitation that's enacted primarily to curtail the over-breeding and ultimate euthanization of unwanted or homeless pets simply because you don't like someone telling you what to do is both selfish and immature.
    Until those who choose to resist proven methods that curtail the over population of domestic companion animals are willing to volunteer at the shelters and personally adminster the death shots to these thousands of otherwise innocent animals – who are guilty of nothing more than, usually, homelessness – I say GROW UP.
    There are, within the state's townships, boroughs and villages, countless pet limit laws that are entirely constitutional on both the state and federal level. Our country has a history of allowing its citizens the freedom to do what it wants until a specific situation gets out of hand and it is then deemed necessary for rules and/or laws to be made to protect society from itself. Thus is the case with pet populations.
    Pet overpopulations cause more than high enthanasia rate. They are responsible for the spread of disease, and other related conditions, that can quickly become problematic and may even turn deadly to the human.
    In today's society where making a dollar supercedes common sense and sadly, as well as all too often, the proper care of the companion animals – that's right, as the human we're supposed to KNOW BETTER – government intervention is the voice of reason and helps save us from ourselves.
    Just think, it wasn't even 100 years ago when government stepped in and created child labor laws……there were those who thought THAT was wrong, too.
    Finally, It's only unfortunate that comments don't automatically appear for ALL readers to contemplate – not just the author.

  • First, comments appear to everyone. I've logged on as a public reader and see them just fine. If you are having a problem, please let me know and I'll try to see if I can remedy it.
    Second, how do you know I don't volunteer at a shelter or contribute to animal welfare issues? Do you know me well enough to gauge my commitment, personally and financially, to eradicating the pet overpopulation problem?
    Third, can you provide data connecting pet limit laws to reducing the pet overpopulation problem? Does it work? Is it a viable tool in this struggle? Does the public benefit warrant the intrusion on personal liberty? I've not seen evidence of that.
    Fourth, as for taking a position on the pet limit law being selfish and immature, that shows a lack of understanding. I do not object to being told what to do … I comply with hundreds if not thousands of laws telling me what to do every day. I understand that the government's responsibility is to protect the health and welfare of the community. I believe the government has a responsibility to prevent cruelty to animals, including the cruelty of homelessness. I think government intervention is a good thing.
    What I object to is an arbitrary determination that five animals will meet that obligation. What I object to is the lack of enforcement of animal cruelty laws (not blaming the humane officers) and lack of enforcement powers for the humane agents. What I object to is the lack of public funding to promote spay/neuter programs and other programs that effectively reduce pet overpopulation. What I most object to is the lack of publicly funded education campaigns.
    Finally, I'm saddened that you equate government intervention with saving us from ourselves. That is the thinking that pervades the current Administration. Without warrants, they tap our phones and intercept our email to protect us from terrorism. They impose Christian-flavored family values on us to protect us from being sexually irresponsible. They eliminate funding for anti-poverty programs to protect us from becoming welfare dependent. They channel monies to corporations to create trickle down wealth.
    Government intervention empowers corporate monoliths that abuse animals to serve us fast fried chicken and new lipstick colors. Government intervention protects puppy mill owners in Lancaster. Government intervention opened the gateways to imports that sickened and killed our pets.
    Government intervention is not intended to make decisions for us. WE are the government and we should hold our elected representatives accountable for making just laws.
    You provide the data that links government intervention in the form of pet limit laws to reducing pet homelessness and I'll reconsider my position.

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