How Many Pets (Dogs/Cats) Can You Own in Iowa?

A family and their two dogs
Photo Credit: Héctor  Herrera Delgado | Pexels

Nicknamed "The Hawkeye State," Iowa is noted for corn; pork production; and beautiful countryside and parks. However, how many dogs or cats can a household have here? The answer is it depends on your specific location within the state. In other words, Iowa has no state-wide limits on pet ownership. Instead, individual municipalities are tasked with having their own rules.

Therefore, the maximum number of pets allowed per household in Iowa can vary from one municipality to another. All you have to do is contact your municipal clerk or local animal control office to determine the allowable number of pets per household in your locality. Alternatively, you may search for your city or town's municipal code online. Meanwhile, I've listed below some Iowa cities and the number of pets you can own in them.

Des Moines

According to the city of Des Moines's website, each household is restricted to a maximum of 6 licensed pets, with a maximum of 3 dogs. For example, you may own three cats and three dogs. If you are a cat person, you may own up to 6 licensed felines and no dog. This limitation does not apply to small animals such as gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, mice, and domestic birds. If you desire to have more than three dogs, you can apply for a fourth dog waiver to the City Clerk.


In the City of Davenport, IA, no more than four domestic pets are permitted per household. According to the city's municipal code, domestic pets include dogs, cats, ferrets, and potbellied pigs. However, of the four animals allowed, no more than three shall be of the same species. For example, you may own three dogs and one cat or the other way around.

This limitation does not apply to animals under six months of age or a litter of puppies or kittens under three months of age. It also does not apply to caged gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, mice, birds, fish, and snakes. If you wish to own more than 3 cats, dogs, or ferrets, you may apply for and obtain a permit from the Humane Society of Scott County.

Sioux City

The total number of pets allowed per residential unit in Sioux City, IA, is three. Of those three animals, no more than two shall be of the same species. For instance, you may own one dog and two cats or two dogs and one cat without a permit. However, you are required to obtain an "Excess Domestic Animals Permit" to own 3 or more dogs or 3 cats or more. But before you are issued the permit, which is valid for 2 years, you must vaccinate and license all of your cats or dogs.

Iowa City

As a resident of Iowa City, you don't need a permit to own 3 dogs or 5 cats, per the City Code. However, keeping more than 3 dogs or 5 cats over the age of four months on any premises is deemed a dog or cat kennel, which requires a permit. Every owner of a dog, cat, or ferret over the age of 4 months is required to have their animal vaccinated and licensed.

West Des Moines

In West Des Moines, IA, no more than a total of 8 legal animals is allowed per household. Of the 8 animals, no more than 4 shall be of the same species. For example, you may own 4 dogs or 4 cats. However, you can't have 5 dogs or 5 cats, of those 8 animals allowed. This limitation does not apply to aquatic or amphibious animals, according to the City Code.


No more than four cats or four dogs are allowed per household in the city of Urbandale, IA. This means that the total number of dogs and cats allowed per household is 4. For example, you may own 2 dogs and 2 cats, 3 dogs and 1 cat, or 3 cats and 1 dog. The city code requires every cat and dog owner to obtain a rabies vaccination for the animal.

What dog breeds are banned or restricted in Iowa?

At the state level, no law bans or restricts particular breeds of dogs. However, some municipalities within the state have their own laws in place restricting or banning certain dog breeds such as the pit bull. According to Iowans Against Breed Bans, breed bans in Iowa include many types of dogs. These include Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Huskies, Pit Bulls, and Doberman Pinchers.

For example, the city of Des Moines' municipal code declares pit bulls "High-risk dogs." Consequently, Des Moines pit bull owners are required by law to carry insurance of $100,000. Additionally, all pit bulls are to be securely confined within an occupied house or in a securely enclosed and locked pen, except when leashed.

Pit bulls are also declared "Dangerous dogs" and thereby restricted in Evansdale, IA. In the city of Fairfield, IA, the following breeds of dogs are labeled as "Dangerous animals" and banned from being kept as pets:
  • Pit Bulls
  • Rottweilers
  • German Shepherd
  • Belgian Malinois
  • Siberian Huskies
  • Malamutes
Fairfield's code of ordinances also bans large dog breeds including the Great Dane, Irish Wolfhound, Scottish Deerhound, Boerboel, and Mastiff breeds because, by size, they "present control concerns."

Per the Pitbull Rights website, pit bulls are restricted in more than 70 Iowa localities.

In 2021, Iowa Lawmakers discussed prohibiting cities and towns from banning or restricting specific breeds of dogs. But for some unknown reason, the bill did not advance. However, on April 11, 2023, Iowa Capital Dispatch reported that the Iowa House approved a bill prohibiting local dog breed bans. The bill encourages Iowa cities to focus their local ordinances on dogs that have problems rather than specific breeds.
Previous Post Next Post

Contact Form