Here’s a terrible number: every year, almost a million companion animals are euthanized at U.S. shelters1. People involved in caring for abandoned animals at shelters and in their homes work under the long shadow of this statistic.[Rabbit rescue organizations and their] fosterers have developed ingenious ways to get maximal usage from our living spaces, making room for as many animals as can happily and healthily share our homes. Some of us live in areas that have “limit laws.” These restrict the number of animals permitted in one household. Such ordinances are aimed at “collectors,” people who accumulate many more animals than they can care for. In some cases, the individual is deranged. The animals are cramped in filthy cages, with the stench of urine, feces, and decaying bodies. Dead animals are left to rot or are eaten by the desperate ones still alive. They receive no medical care, nor are they spayed or neutered.
Clearly, we need to protect animals from these horrors. The problem with limit laws is that they focus on the quantity of animals rather than the quality of care. Laws against abuse already exist in every state and are equally applicable to people who mistreat 2 or 200 animals.
Limit laws put dedicated rescuers at risk. They make no distinction between a home where “over-the-limit” animals are loved and well cared for and the horror of life at the hands of a “collector.” The limits in many areas are so low that one does not need to be a rescuer to come out on the wrong side of the law.
Legislation can be an effective tool in reducing the yearly waste of lives. Laws requiring cats and dogs to be spayed or neutered have shown this, as euthanasia statistics drop in communities that have enacted this innovative approach.