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How Many Household Pets can I Keep?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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How many household pets you can keep is usually determined by the city in which you live. In most US cities, ordinances often limit the number of dogs to two, and may also limit the number of cats. Other pets like rats, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, or hamsters may also have a number limit in your area.

The best way to find out if you currently exceed the appropriate number of household pets is to call the local Animal Control department. This can help you determine if you should find homes for some of your pets, or may help you decide whether you can add more. Of course, another factor is not only the number of animals you keep, but also your ability to give them appropriate care. You should definitely have the means to provide adequate food and housing, and be able to pay for veterinary care for any of the pets you own.

Sometimes, laws regarding pets exclude unincorporated areas of a city. This means that, normally, areas outside city limits or rural areas are less likely to place restrictions on the number of household pets you can keep. Again, you still must be able to care for these animals in an appropriate and safe manner.

Even with laws giving you rights to own a certain number of pets, animals that become a nuisance to other neighbors, like constantly barking dogs, can restrict your ownership rights. People have successfully sued neighbors and had pets removed from homes because the animal’s behavior was disturbing another owner’s right to enjoy his property. If you do have a dog that barks frequently, consider animal training or keep your pets indoors as much as possible to minimize the annoyance to neighbors.

What you define as a household pet may not actually be considered one by state or city laws. For example, if you keep snakes, ferrets, or imported animals, they may be considered exotic animals. You should check laws before you get such a pet, and be prepared to apply for a permit to keep an exotic animal. A wolf/dog cross usually also requires a special permit and registration if the dog is at least 50% wolf since, technically, a wolf is a wild animal.

Another category of animals that may not be considered as household pets is small farm animals. No matter how much you love your pot-bellied pig or miniature horse, it may still be considered a farm animal and not a pet. In urban and suburban settings, people may be restricted as to which “farm animals” they can own and may need extra land or special permits to keep these animals.

All Things Nature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a All Things Nature contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon1002316 — On Oct 24, 2019

My neighbor has 8 dogs, numerous snakes (one a python), and several tarantulas. One corn snake escaped apparently months ago but he did not know until it turned up in house several doors away. Does he need a license for these?

By anon961985 — On Jul 21, 2014

What happens if you have more than allowed?

By StarJo — On Nov 14, 2012

I think we should always keep what is best and safe for our pets in mind when setting a limit for how many we will be able to take in. I currently have four dogs, but recently, a stray has been hanging around, eating the dogfood that my dogs don't finish and playing with them.

While he is friendly enough, he is covered in fleas. I don't want my animals to get infested with them. Also, I cannot afford another package of expensive flea and tick prevention or regular veterinary care for yet another dog.

By healthy4life — On Nov 13, 2012

@giddion – It is sad, but there are some people who have to have limits placed on them. The pets per household laws are there to regulate both the safety and well being of the animals and the tranquility of the surroundings for the neighbors.

I agree it would be hard and harsh for you to have to surrender your four dogs, or even two of them. I am talking about more extreme cases.

I have heard of ladies living with twenty or more cats in their homes, and the homes are usually small. How could one person possibly take care of that many animals by herself?

By giddion — On Nov 12, 2012

I think it's so sad that there are laws regarding number of pets allowed per household. What if you have to move to a city because of your new job and you have more pets than the city allows? Should you really have to give up members of your family because of regulations?

To some people, they are just animals, but to many, they are family members. I know I could never live in a big city, because I have four big dogs that I could never give up.

By JackWhack — On Nov 12, 2012

@dreams84 – It is so important to research the breed of dog you want before buying several of them. I knew a couple who bought three Weimaraner puppies just because they were cute and had blue eyes, but they found out later on how demanding and rambunctious they could be and decided to give them away.

Maybe, if they had bought just one, they could have dealt with the extreme energy and neediness. However, because they jumped in headfirst and bought three at once, their problems with them were multiplied, and they got rid of all of them.

By anon164863 — On Apr 03, 2011

i live in oregon and i have three dogs, two rabbits and one guinea pig. Is it legal to have all these pets? And if not what is the limit? Thanks.

By kearney10 — On Jul 07, 2010

Pets are great additions to your household, but like dreams84 pointed out, there is a lot to consider before you choose furry or scaly friend. Some cities will not provide insurance for homeowners if they own more aggressive breeds of dogs, such as pit bulls and German shepherds. This should be put into consideration before purchasing that fluffy little puppy that is going to possibly have to be sent to an animal shelter when it gets bigger.

Which brings about another great point, make sure to check your local shelters prior to purchasing a pet from a pet store. There are several dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets and other four legged critters that are looking for a great home. Not only are these animals vaccinated prior to adoption, but may already be house trained which will make the transition easier for all involved.

By dreams84 — On Jul 07, 2010

There are several things to consider prior to picking out the perfect pet for you, your family, and your household.

First things first, before going and picking up Fido you should consider how much it is going to cost you to be a pet owner. A pet fish is going to differ greatly in cost when compared with a large breed of dog.

Also, as a prospective pet owner one should think about how much time is available to be with the pet. Some breeds of dogs need plenty of exercise and others require a lot of attention, such as grooming.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a All Things Nature contributor, Tricia...
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