Sunday, December 03, 2000

Pet limits

New laws barking up wrong tree

        How many dogs should one family be allowed to have? Probably 102 dalmatians is too many. But what about two? Or three?

        Does a Yorkie count as a whole dog? A St. Bernard as a dog and a half? And do we really want government to do the counting? Will we wind up with dimpled dachshunds? Chows with chads?

        The city of Fort Thomas is considering a policy that would limit household pets to no more than two dogs and two cats per residence. Although I personally do not understand why, some people also invite ferrets and snakes into their homes. Do they count? How much? I do not think a hundred ferrets amounts to a single good dog.

        And what about birds? And gerbils and hamsters?

Surprise inspection
        In Fairfield, a woman who spent thousands of dollars making her property suitable for stray, abused and sick animals was busted on an ordinance limiting household pets. A surprise inspection by the Humane Association of Butler County found her animals to be well-fed and clean.

        She came to their attention when she applied for licenses for 27 dogs. That's a lot of dogs, but the two-dog rule appears to be the only one she violated. Nobody had complained about noise. Indeed, some of her neighbors have applauded her efforts to get the law changed.

        Batavia won't let residents keep more than four dogs or cats. Middletown says no more than five adult dogs. No limits on cats. Lawrenceburg allows no more than two of any domestic persuasion.

        In Cincinnati, you can have as many as you want, as long as they're not noisy, smelly or sick. As long as they don't bite the neighbor's kid or dig up his petunias. Ditto Lebanon and Covington.

        “The problem is hardly ever the animal,” Dr. Kevin Ketring of North College Hill Pet Clinic. “It's the people. Irresponsible people. And there are already plenty of laws on the books to deal with them.”

"Just a bad idea'
        Most multiple-pet owners are “particularly wonderful,” according to Harold Dates, general manager of the Hamilton County SPCA. “These laws are just a bad idea. Most people are very well aware of their own limitations when it comes to the number of pets they can handle.”

        And if they aren't, we can charge them with noise or health violations. Or cruelty to animals.

        Two isn't enough sometimes. Maybe you want your old dogs to teach a new one tricks. Or your cat surprises you with kittens. Sometimes it takes a while to palm them off on your friends. And sometimes you simply find room in your heart for one more.

        But there's nothing lawmakers like more than making more laws. It's a lot more fun than wrestling with the ones we already have. Which are old news.

        City officials in Fort Thomas have denied that the proposed policy has anything to do with the discovery last August of an elderly woman living in unspeakable filth with nearly 100 cats.

        But the timing seems curious.

        The lovely town of Fort Thomas — really, one of the prettiest in the region — is hardly overrun with feral cats and wild dogs. There's a hearing Monday. Residents will have a chance to speak about this issue. It will be interesting to hear whether they believe their community has too many dogs and cats.

        Or too many laws.

       E-mail Laura at or call 768-8393.


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