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How Many Is Too Many?

I've read articles before that have broached the subject of just how many dogs should one person own. It's a subject that will never be...

Horst Hoefinger  |  Sep 2nd 2008


I’ve read articles before that have broached the subject of just how many dogs should one person own. It’s a subject that will never be agreed upon by all. I see a lot of comments that say it’s a matter of how many dogs you can care for.

However, this next story really bothered me and raises a few interesting questions. Is it really just a matter of how many you can financially care for or does it go deeper than that?

There’s a couple in San Bruno, CA that have more dogs than the city law allows without a special permit. The city allows for two dogs and Tony and Roberta Washington have fourteen.

The couple have lived in their home for more than a decade, and have watched their brood grow. Aside from their dogs, they also had 14 cats.

The Washington’s recently gave up five felines; on Saturday, the Give Me Shelter Cat Rescue of San Francisco was expected to pick up five more cats, leaving them with four “… the allowable amount according to San Bruno city code.

In 2000, the couple started with a Chihuahua-Terrier mix and added a purebred Chihuahua the following year. The dogs fell in love and started their own family, adding nine puppies into the mix. It didn’t stop there because then the Washington’s adopted three more dogs.

In 2003 they did get a permit for their animals but never renewed after that. Recently, a neighbor called the city and the local humane society to complain about the smell coming from the home. Also, about the possibility the animals were not being properly cared for.A humane society officer went out to investigate whether the pets had adequate food, water and were well socialized.

“We did not find any cause of concern,” said Ken White, president of the Humane Society. “Simply having more animals than the average person might think is reasonable is not a crime.”

Ironically, the stench was not coming from the animals but from the city sewer. San Bruno City Manager, Connie Jackson, said “pets are not allowed to roam, or be in a situation that can endanger people or other animals.” Herein lies the problem, there doesn’t seem to be any concern about the welfare of the animals living with the Washington’s.

Currently, the dogs live in crates stacked in the dining room cooled by a ceiling fan. Two to three small canines share a shelter. The majority of their dogs still need to be neutered or fixed. Near the door that leads to the back yard, a humidifier hums next to a large barrel of dog food.

Just because you feed your animals doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a fit pet parent. Having your dogs living in stacked crates is no better a life than living in a shelter or pet store. If you stack them like collectibles in your dining room you’re missing the point of having a dog. Owning a dog requires meeting all the responsibilities that come along with that ownership. Neighbors say the couple love the dogs and think of them as their babies but I have to wonder if that is enough.

So, how many is too many? Is it alright to have as many as you want just because you feed them? Should there be city ordinances that limit the number of dogs you can own? Feel free to bark back.