Counties or municipalities typically dictate how many dogs are allowed within a single household, and the figure varies widely throughout the country. Regardless of laws, you should only keep as many dogs as you can safely take care of. Weigh your budget, the available space in your home and yard, and the time you have to spend with each dog. Obviously, if you can't afford vet care for multiple dogs or don't have enough space or time for them, keeping fewer than the max number of dogs allowed per household is a better idea.
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Max number of dogs allowed per household
Counties, municipalities, towns, and states use different methods to determine the max number of dogs allowed per household. So, when you move into a new area, you can't depend on what your previous area's rules were, even if you move to a neighboring town. Some places have a max number of dogs and/or cats, while for others, it depends on the type of dwelling you have and how much land it sits on.
To make matters even more confusing, the state may get involved in the max number of dogs allowed per household. For example, the state of California allows a max of four dogs or cats. However, Sacramento County only allows three dogs, while Los Angeles County allows four.
Apartment vs. house with land
Some cities' regulations regarding the max number of dogs allowed per household are based on property type. For example, the city of Dallas permits up to four dogs and cats in any combination in an apartment or townhouse, whether it's two dogs and two cats, four dogs, or three cats and one dog. However, Dallas permits up to six in a single-family home on less than half an acre of land and up to eight on over half an acre of land.
How dog size impacts regulations
Some areas limit the number of "large dogs" you can own but don't specify what "large" means, while many apartment complexes state that they allow "two small pets per apartment" but don't define what "small" means.
Other municipalities are more specific, however. For example, Des Moines, Iowa allows a max of six pets per residence, but only three can be dogs. However, waivers are available to have one of the six pets be a fourth dog as long as the dog is full grown and weighs less than 20 pounds as certified by a vet within 30 days of licensing.
Nuisance regulations and zoning
Even within a single city, laws vary from area to area based on nuisance regulations and zoning. For example, some areas within the city might limit the number of dogs to avoid barking and noise, but the same city might allow a larger number if you live on the outskirts or own a large property where the dogs will not disturb the neighbors. Properties zoned for estates or agriculture would logically be less restrictive than those zoned for urban and suburban settings.
Baltimore County in Maryland does not specify the number of dogs a household may have, but anyone can make a formal, notarized affidavit of complaint against residents if the dogs bark excessively, if the dogs are aggressive, if they appear to be neglected by being chained outside for long periods, or if they do not have adequate food or water. In fact, many laws about the number of dogs you can have are only enforced if someone complains about the animals.
Puppies and other exceptions
Most jurisdictions don't count puppies in their laws. In such a case, if your male and female have puppies or if you adopt puppies, they won't be included in the count until they reach a certain age. That age varies, but typically, puppies don't count in the local law until they pass weaning age, or when they become adults. In Dallas, puppies up to 6 months old do not count, but in other places, puppies are exempt only up to 4 months old.