Owning Pets

Revised Spring 2008 Boehm

The majority of people in the United States own pets. Owning a pet has been a regular activity for centuries. Most parents buy their children pets, so they can learn about responsibility by taking care of the pet. Anyone owning a cat or dog will most likely tell you that their pet is part of their family. I know from my own experiences that this is very true. Through out my entire life my family has owned cats, each one of them has been very important to me.

Owning Pets

Being a pet owner comes with many responsibilities. First, pets are expensive. The person buying the pet must have enough money to care for the pet throughout its entire life. For example, the general cost for buying or adopting a kitten is $50 to $100. After that, additional costs for spaying and neutering and required shots can cost up to $200. Besides all of the costs that come with buying a kitten, the biggest expense is food. One website claims that to feed an adult cat it costs around $4 per week (“Cost of Owning a Pet”). Most adult healthy cats live to be around 13-18 years old. This is where many people get themselves into trouble, they do not realize they cannot care for an animal for that many years, and for this reason many pets are abandoned each year.

Second, the person buying the pet must be able to provide the pet with enough space to live. For example, a dog needs a backyard to play in. If a person lives in an apartment with no backyard, they most likely will not be able to own a dog. This brings up legal issues about owning pets in apartments that I will discuss later.

Third, the person buying a pet will also need to buy the supplies that the pet needs. For example, if someone is buying a fish they will need to buy a fish tank, fish food, rocks to go in the fish tank, a pump to circulate the water, and some fake plants to provide a good environment for the fish. This all relates back to expenses and shows that supplies for pets are vital and can start to add up in cost.

Fourth, and probably the most important thing to know when buying a pet,is the general information regarding the pet. Doing research about the specific breed of dog, or the type of lizard a person wants to buy before purchasing the pet can help the future owner. This information gives the owner a hint as to whether he or she can properly care for the pet, and what they can expect.

People choose whether to own a pet based on various decisions, and a few things may interfere with owning a pet. Having a small child under the age of two might deter someone from buying certain types of pets. Also, having allergies can limit the pets some people can buy.

There are many benefits to owning pets. Most people own pets for the love and companionship an animal can give. People also own pets for certain health benefits. An article on About.com by Elizabeth Scott said, “Groups of hypertensive New York stockbrokers who got dogs or cats were found to have lower blood pressure and heart rates than those who didn’t get pets.” In the same article she also says, “Recent research shows that, when conducting a task that’s stressful, people actually experienced less stress when their pets were with them than when a supportive friend or even their spouse was present!” Other reasons for owning pets are to prevent loneliness and to provide friendship.

Juridic Controls

There are many regulations that owners must follow after purchasing a pet. First, when a person decides to buy a pet from a pet store they usually have a right to the Pet Lemon Law depending on which state they live in. According to a free information web site, seventeen states currently acknowledge the Pet Lemon Law (“Pet Lemon Laws”). These laws give pet store customers the right to return a sick pet for a replacement or a refund. Most also give customers the option of keeping the pet, and having it treated for its medical condition. The owner will usually be reimbursed for the veterinary services up to the amount of the purchase price of the pet. The time the owner has to get the pet checked by a vet varies from state to state. If the pet store refuses to refund or reimburse a customer within a certain number of business days following receipt of the veterinarian statement, the customer can file an action in court to resolve the dispute. Pet stores are not responsible if the animal’s illness was caused by maltreatment, neglect, or injuries that occurred of the sale of the pet. These laws provide an incentive for pet stores to obtain their animals from responsible sources, and allow owners to avoid purchasing a pet with a serious illness that may end up costing them more than they can afford.

After that initial stage of buying the pet, a new owner must take their pet to a veterinary clinic to get its vaccinations. Most counties and states require dogs and cats to be vaccinated for rabies, they also sometimes require them to be vaccinated against other diseases specific to the animal. The Billings Animal Ordinance requires, “all dogs and cats to be vaccinated and vaccination tags to be on the animals when the animals are off of the owner’s property.” (p. 12) Most local ordinances follow the same rules and punishments; either a fine or a charge will be distributed to the owner.

When owning a dog the owner should be aware of is the Dog Bite Law. Montana does enforce the Dog Bite Law under statue 27-1-715. The Montana Statute says, “The owner of any dog which shall without provocation bite any person while such person is on or in a public place or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of such dog, located within an incorporated city or town shall be liable for such damages as may be suffered by the person bitten regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.” (Statue 27-1-715) The second part of this law states, “A person is lawfully upon the private property of such owner within the meaning of performance of any duty such imposed upon him by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States of America or when he is on such property as an invitee or license of the person lawfully in the possession of property.” (Statue 27-715) Phillips reports that thirty-three states currently have dog bite statues similar to Montana’s.

Common pet laws that most owners are aware of are the prohibiting of small animals from city parks and public places. When people go to a city park they usually see signs that say, “No Dogs Allowed.” The law behind these signs actually applies for all small pets. Also, most stores do not allow pets. Signs posted on the front doors will read, “No Pets Allowed.” Most food establishments will have these signs. When owners have to take their dogs shopping or out to eat with them, the dog can commonly be seen left in the owner’s car. A hotel is an example of another place that frequently does not allow pets. There will be the same, “No Pets Allowed” signs posted in each room. Some Hotels do allow pets for an extra fee in designated rooms.

Barking dogs can be a nuisance to any neighbor. There are a few different names that pertain to certain ordinances that a county or city might have. Mixon calls these laws the multiple-household law, the anti-barking law, and the single complaint victim driven law. Billings fortunately has an ordinance against barking dogs. It reads, “Every person who keeps, feeds, harbors or allows to stay about any premises occupied or controlled by such person, any animal which unreasonably annoys or disturbs any person by continuous and habitual barking, howling, yelping or whining or other noise is guilty of maintaining a public nuisance and is therefore guilty of a misdemeanor” (Ordinance No. 03-5259). The person must send in a written report to the animal shelter stating their full name and address in order for the neighbor to be prosecuted.

A strict law that is commonly known among pet owners is the law, regarding pets and apartment/rental buildings. The landlords of these rentals create and enforce these rules of whether pets are allowed. For example, Property Management in Billings, Montana does not allow pets in most if their rentals. The lease will have a specific noting whether animals are allowed or not. Once a person signs that lease they have to abide by the restrictions they agreed to. If a person is caught owning pets in a rental where pets are not allowed, they will be evicted from the rental and have to pay for any damages the pets may have caused. Each rental company has their own laws about pets.

The most enforceable laws for pets are the animal cruelty laws. These laws vary from state to state, but they all generally cover the basics of animal rights. The Montana Cruelty to Animals Statues state:A person commits the offense of cruelty to animals if without justification the person knowingly or negligently subjects an animal to mistreatment or neglect by: overworking, beating, tormenting, injuring, or killing any animal; carrying or confining any animal in a cruel manner; failing to provide an animal in the person's custody with: proper food, drink, or shelter; or in cases of immediate, obvious, serious illness or injury, licensed veterinary or other appropriate medical care; abandoning any helpless animal or abandoning any animal on any highway, railroad, or in any other place where it may suffer injury, hunger, or exposure or become a public charge; or promoting, sponsoring, conducting, or participating in an animal race of more than 2 miles, except a sanctioned endurance race.(“Montana Cruelty to Animals Statutes”)

In Montana the fines for these actions are as follows: A person convicted of the offense of cruelty to animals shall be fined not to exceed $500 or be imprisoned in the county jail for a term not to exceed 6 months, or both. A person convicted of a second or subsequent offense of cruelty to animals shall be fined not to exceed $1,000 or be imprisoned in the state prison for a term not to exceed 2 years, or both. If the convicted person is the owner, the person may be required to forfeit to the county in which the person is convicted any animal affected. This provision does not affect the interest of any secured party or other person who has not participated in the offense. In addition to the sentence provided in subsection (2), the court may: require the defendant to pay all reasonable costs incurred in providing necessary veterinary attention and treatment for any animal affected; and prohibit or limit the defendant's ownership, possession, or custody of animals, as the court believes appropriate during the term of the sentence. Nothing in this section prohibits: a person from humanely destroying an animal for just cause; or the use of commonly accepted agricultural and livestock practices on livestock. (“Montana Cruelty to Animals Statues”)


All of these laws are burdensome to a pet owner from the moment he or she buys a pet. They can become increasingly more burdensome if the owner does not care for their pet properly or if their pet becomes dangerous and causes harm to another person. These controls come to mind throughout the entire life of the pet. Direct action can help victims of these laws, but will not aid a guilty pet owner. There is no direct action a person can do to avoid these laws and still provide safety for themselves and their pet. Victims can, however, use direct action to help solve a pet problem. For example, a person who is fed up with a barking dog can go to their neighbor first before going to animal control and ask that neighbor to do something about the dog. For a pet owner there is not much direct action to be taken unless they become a victim. Pet laws concern both pet owners and victims of pet attacks. The owner’s expenses being when they purchase the pet. After that a variety of burdensomeness can be experienced by each law.

The Pet Lemon Law can also cause burdensomeness to the pet store owner. If the store owner purchases the pet from an unreliable source, they will be responsible for the medical bills of the pet. This teaches pet store owners not to purchase puppies from puppy mills, and carefully consider the places where they get their other animals from. The pet owners, in this case, benefit from the pet lemon law. It should not technically cause them any burden unless the store owner does not carry out their contract. The risk of buying a pet is always going to be there whether the Pet Lemon Law is enforced or not.

The law that requires cats and dogs to be properly vaccinated can cause a burden to anyone buying a pet. A person may want to own an animal but not want to follow through with any of the health precautions that should be taken for the pet. By not properly vaccinating a pet, the owner is putting themselves and other people at risk. For example, if their un-vaccinated dog bites a neighbor, the owner may be taken to civil court and will be charged for not vaccinating their dog. Also, vaccinations are expensive and may cause a burden to the new owner if he or she cannot pay for the vaccinations for their pet.

The law regarding pets being allowed in certain apartment buildings and rental homes can be burdensome to people who have to move and want to keep their animals. When my parents got divorced we were forced to move into a duplex. The property management company who owned the duplex did not allow animals. At the time we owned two cats and made the choice to keep them. We decided to hide our cats from the company while we lived in the duplex. This was burdensome several times. If anything needed to be fixed in the duplex, we had to take the cats away and make sure no one could tell they had been living there. This law forces people to choose between putting a proper shelter over their heads or keeping their beloved pets. It can be a very difficult and life changing choice for a pet owner.

The animal cruelty laws are probably the most burdensome because they carry the maximum punishments a pet owner can face. Pet owners are subject to these laws throughout the life of the pet, and do no cause burden only at specific times in the pet’s life. These laws have high punishments including jail time and large fines. This can be life damaging to a person who is convicted of animal cruelty. There are so many types of cruelty ranging from something as simple as not feeding an animal to beating an animal. Some owners get in trouble with these laws because they neglect their pets. This can happen at any point during the pet’s lifetime making animal cruelty laws something an owner thinks about constantly.

Recently, I have experienced some of these laws. I bought a new kitten this past July from a local pet store. When I purchased him, I was not aware that he would need as many shots as he did. The fact that the shots were required was burdensome to me because I did not have the money to pay for his bills. I worked several extra days that month and was able to come up with the money. After the initial expenditures I knew I would have to get him neutered within the next four months. This is a huge expense for anyone who buys a kitten or puppy. The first veterinary clinic I went to wanted around $200 for the process. I decided to go to a different clinic to spend a lower amount of money. Because we own two more cats, the bill for cat food in our house went up. The amount of cat litter we now have to buy also went up. These are two things that I will have to be conscious of for the rest of my cat’s lives.


Any person can escape these controls by choosing not to own pets. Owning pets is a personal choice. A person should take time and carefully go over the responsibilities and consequences they may encounter when owning a pet. This activity is no different in the high prairie region than it is from anywhere in the United States. The only difference is a few specific laws. Each county and state has different laws, and they all cover the general basics of animal rights. Overall, to be free of the juridic controls that come with owning pets, a person can simply decide not to own a pet. This will free them of all controls and burdens that come with pet ownership.

Choosing to own a pet comes with a variety of responsibilities and can also have a array of consequences. There are plenty of laws that control how a pet owner can take care of their pet. They range from vaccination laws all the way to simple public laws that do not allow dogs in city parks. Each of these laws places a burden on the pet owner. Some of the burdens are acknowledged daily, while others are concentrated more on specific circumstances. The easiest way to avoid these laws is by not owning a pet. By choosing to not own a pet, a person avoids nearly all of these laws expect if he or she becomes a victim of an attack. Overall, the process of owning a pet can be enjoyable and easy, but it can also become a burden if the proper steps are not taken in caring for the pet.

Works Cited

Anonymous. “Cost of Owning a Pet.” Online Posting. 2003. Consumer Credit Counseling Service. 25 Oct. 2007 <http://www.cccsatl.org/cost-owning-pet.asp>.
Anonymous. “Montana Cruelty to Animals Statues.” Online Posting. Sept. 2001. The University of Texas at Austin. 10 Oct. 2007 <http://tarlton.law.utexas.edu/dawson/cruelty/mt_cruel.htm>.
Anonymous. “Pet Lemon Laws.” Online Posting. Free Information on Pet, Dog, Cat, and Horse Laws. 25 Oct. 2007 <http://petcaretips.net/pet-lemon-law.html7>.
Mixon, Craig. “The Barking Laws, Law Enforcement, and the Courts.” Online Posting. 2003-2007. Barkingdogs.net. 25 Oct. 2007 <http://www.barkingdogs.net/barkinglaws.shtml>.
Montana. City of Billings. “Animal Control Ordinance.” 26 Nov. 2003. Ordinance 03-5259. 25 Oct. 2007 <http://cibillings.mt.us/Shelter/ordinance.php7>.
Phillips, Kenneth. “Montana Dog Bite Law.” Online Posting. 3 June 2003. DogBiteLaw.com. 25 Oct. 2007<http://dogbitelaw.com/PAGES/Montana.html>.
Scott, Elizabeth. “How Owning a Dog or Cat can Reduce Stress.” Online Posting. October 2007. About.com. The New York Times Company. 25 Oct. 2007 <http://stress.about.com/od/lowstresslifestyle/a/petsandstress.htm?p=1>.

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