Within the field of medical ethics, discussions related to public health have mainly concentrated on issues that are closely tied to research and practice involving technologies and professional services, including vaccination, screening, and insurance coverage. Broader determinants of population health have received less attention, although this situation is rapidly changing. Against this backdrop, our specific contribution to the literature on ethics and law vis-à-vis promoting population health is to open up the ubiquitous presence of pets within cities and towns for further discussion. An expanding body of research suggests that pet animals are deeply relevant to people's health (negatively and positively). Pet bylaws adopted by town and city councils have largely escaped notice, yet they are meaningful to consider in relation to everyday practices, social norms, and cultural values, and thus in relation to population health. Nevertheless, not least because they pivot on defining pets as private property belonging to individual people, pet bylaws raise emotionally charged ethical issues that have yet to be tackled in any of the health research on pet ownership. The literature in moral philosophy on animals is vast, and we do not claim to advance this field here. Rather, we pragmatically seek to reconcile philosophical objections to pet ownership with both animal welfare and public health. In doing so, we foreground theorizations of personhood and property from sociocultural anthropology. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.