How Many Pets is Too Many?
To learn how many pets is too many, we must consider several factors.
Most areas have laws whereby a person can only own so many of any given type of pets. Additionally, some laws ban some pets altogether. Laws are being changed and challenged all the time; for example once all livestock was illegal within most city limits, some cities are now allowing a certain number of hens to be kept as pets (you do not need a rooster to get eggs).
Of course, if a person rents their home they have rules imposed upon them as to what pets they can and cannot own by their landlord. Even rural people have laws restricting what kind, and how many, animals they can keep; usually these are based on how many acres they have and their proximity to town. Anyone breaking the laws or rules has too many pets, simply because at any time a governing body can call for the immediate removal of the animals.
Its one thing to have a dozen pet sheep on 10 acres, it's another thing to have a dozen dogs in an 800 sq ft house.
Even where there are no legal restrictions on how many animals a person can keep, sometimes there are more practical ones, involving how much space a particular animal needs. Horses need a couple of acres per animal to be able to exercise correctly and freely, especially if not ridden regularly. Even small house pets have basic space requirements. Hamsters are often kept in substandard tiny cages, but if they cannot be afforded time out of their cage daily they need at least two square feet of cage and one wheel per animal.
Ideally they should have even more room, realizing that in the wild they would cover a good distance. Some exotic pets, such as insects, need only small cages, but others, such as some lizards, will grow to amazing sizes and need more room. If a person cannot provide adequate space for all their pets, they have too many, and if pets are in each others space too much, fights will occur.
As in space, each pet should be given an adequate amount of attention and their owner's time. They need to have their living spaces cleaned and time for exercise and interaction. If an owner finds they have too many pets, the ones they have will not receive enough attention and suffer as a result. Even pets that do not require regular human interaction should still receive daily attention to make sure they are doing well and thriving.
If a person has more animals than they can properly afford to care for and feed, they have too many pets. Basic veterinary expenses should always be accounted for in the budget, as such for some people even one pet might be too much if they cannot afford basic health care for that pet (such as vaccinations, deworming, and having the pet spayed or neutered). Quite simply put, if the basic needs of any pet are not met due to financial concerns, there is no way an emergency expense is going to be covered. In many areas neglect of a pet's health is a criminal offense, a clear sign that a person has more pets than they can manage.
Sometimes the reason a person gets a pet is a signal of problems. Some people become what are called “hoarders”; people who collect pets for the wrong reasons. They collect the pets to fill an emotional or social need in their life, and often allow the pets to breed uncontrolled. They are not owning pets with the desire of improving the pet's life, and easily become a problem as the pets often suffer from neglect as the situation spirals out of control. Many of these animals are not well socialized as a result.
What Can You Do?
If you, or somebody you know has too many animals, the best thing to do is to reduce their burden by selecting the most adoptable animals for rehoming. This is usually the younger animals or the more unusual breeds. Leave the owner with the mature animals who stand a poor chance at finding a new home, but make sure they are only left with animals who have been fixed and will not reproduce.