Upper limit on dog ownership depends on where you are and who owns your home

You might like to find out whether there is an upper limit on the number of dogs that you are allowed where you live. It depends upon who owns the home where you are living and the local ordinances or laws. In other words, it depends on where you are as well. This page is an overview on this topic.

A dog owner taking his dog for a walk in Worcester, Massachusetts, USA in the snow

A dog owner taking his dog for a walk in Worcester, Massachusetts, USA in the snow. Photo: Michael Bonner/masslive.com/TNS

Who owns your home?

Homes that are owned by the local authority i.e. public housing, is governed by public housing laws as issued by the local authority. They will definitely have rules regarding an upper limit on the number of dogs that you are allowed.

If you live in a privately owned apartment there will be a lease or the equivalent depending on where you live which dictates an upper limit on the number of dogs you are allowed. In apartments there has to be an upper limit because people are very close together.

If you live in a house either detached, semi-detached or terraced, there will be no limit on the number of dogs that you own in terms of your right of ownership of the property but there may be a limit as specified by the city, county or the municipality where you live.

If you are renting from a landlord i.e. you are not the leaseholder, then the landlord will impose restrictions on the number of dogs you can have as per the lease. Or they may apply their own restrictions under a tenancy agreement.

Where you live

It seems to me that rules regarding the upper limit of dog ownership are created by city administrators, county administrators or the administrators of a certain municipality. These laws don’t normally come from federal governments.

For instance, in the UK, there is no upper limit as specified by UK law.

Overarching law

However, where there is no upper limit specified, there will be animal welfare laws in developed countries which can indirectly limit the number of dogs that you own. This is because the more dogs you own the harder it is to maintain the welfare and health of those dogs. There may come a time when you can’t do it because you can’t cope properly in which case you are in breach of animal welfare laws. This is a limit, indirectly applied.


There’s quite nice example in the news media today from Worcester, USA. This is a city in the state of Massachusetts. To the best of my knowledge, Massachusetts is quite a tightly governed state in terms of animal welfare.

The upper limit is two dogs or two cats in Worcester. Any more and you are violating a city ordinance. You can have two dogs, two cats or one of each. In other words, two companion animals are the upper limit.

It is quite a rough and ready law because sometimes people can cope with having more animals than this and do a great job of animal caregiving. At the other end of the spectrum, there are people who simply can’t cope with one dog.

In Boston pet owners are allowed to have three dogs before you need a personal kennel license. Springfield Massachusetts allows four dogs per household provided they are spayed and neutered. Any more and you need a kennel license.

Most cities in the US state of Massachusetts have a limit of three or four companion animals per household.

This may be lower than is typically encountered in the USA. These limits apparently were enacted in the early 1990s.

Patrick Cherry, Worcester Animal Control Officer, believes that a lot of residents in Worcester don’t know about the companion animal ownership limitations.

If you want to own more than the limit, as mentioned, you have to apply for a kennel license. There will be restrictions to obtaining a licence. You’ve got to present yourself for a licensing board. You have got to show proof of multiple parking spots, a space for a washroom and space for kennels.

You can’t obtain a licence if you live in a multi-family home. If you are a breeder of cats or dogs you will need a licence. Patrick admits that the city is reliant upon neighbours ratting on their neighbours about the number of animals that they have.

This points to an enforcement difficulty. This in turn probably puts off some local jurisdictions enacting laws about dog and cat limits.

It’s probably fair to say that even in Worcester, there will be cat hoarders who get away with it for a very long time. They are clearly in breach of the local ordinance but they maintain secrecy until perhaps a neighbour smells the odour of ammonia in cat urine emanating from a window and complain to the local authority. Enforcement is a problem as mentioned.

There are some pages on dog adoption below.

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