Laws unconstitutional

By opinion dated March 30, 1994, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court struck down an ordinance that limited the number of cats or dogs that could be maintained in a single residence to five.

The Borough of Carnegie, which is located just outside of Pittsburgh, enacted an ordinance that provided: “No person or residence shall be permitted to own, harbor or maintain more than five (5) dogs or cats, or any combination thereof, within the Borough limits”

Despite the ordinance, Mrs. Creighton, a resident of Carnegie, owned cats ranging in numbers from the high teens to thirty-three. She was cited for violating the ordinance and found guilty by the district justice. She appealed to the Allegheny County court of common Pleas, where the trial judge once again found her guilty. She then appealed to the Commonwealth Court. On appeal, the Borough asked the conviction be upheld, arguing the law was sufficient evidence that Mrs. Creighton’s ownership of the cats adversely affected the health, safety and welfare of the community.

Writing for the Commonwealth Court, Judge Friedman disagreed, holding that an ordinance limiting the number of dogs or cats a person could keep to five reached beyond the power granted to the Borough to prohibit a nuisance, absent any indication why more than five cats or dogs might constitute a nuisance or a risk to the public health, safety and welfare. The Court went on to add: “Even legitimate legislative goals (controlling nuisances) cannot be pursued by means which stifle fundamental personal liberty when the goals can be otherwise more reasonably achieved.”

Paul Hamilton


Submitted by Virtual Newsroom