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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Home, Home on the Range (For Now)

The New York Times has an article today about the rising tensions caused by Arizona's so-called "Open Range" laws, which absolve livestock owners of liability if their animals cause damage after wandering onto land not enclosed by a "lawful fence."  Cattle are big creatures, and subdivision residents have reported that loose cattle have destroyed their gardens, caused automobile accidents, and generally freaked them out.  There is a provision under Arizona law to establish a "no-fence district" under certain circumstances, but that doesn't seem to be solving the problem.

More after the jump.

I looked up the Arizona laws regarding livestock and they make for some interesting reading.  Here are a few:

§ 3-1311. Dogs killing or chasing livestock; liability of owner; classification

A. If any person discovers a dog killing, wounding or chasing livestock, or discovers a dog under circumstances which show conclusively that it has recently killed or chased livestock, he may pursue and kill the dog.

B. The owner of a dog is liable for damages caused by the dog chasing livestock. In the case of a dog killing or wounding livestock, the owner of the dog is liable for damages to the owner of the livestock equal to three times the value of the livestock killed or wounded.

C. An owner of a dog who intentionally or recklessly allows or causes the dog to:

1. Wound or kill livestock owned by another person is guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor.

2. Chase livestock owned by another person, causing injury to the livestock, is guilty of a class 3 misdemeanor.

So, the way I read this, if a steer wanders into your non-fenced yard and your dog chases it off, the owner of the steer has the right to kill your dog.  And then you are liable for treble the damages caused by your dog. 

§ 3-1427. Recovery for damage to unfenced lands; exception

An owner or occupant of land is not entitled to recover for damage resulting from the trespass of animals unless the land is enclosed within a lawful fence, but this section shall not apply to owners or occupants of land in no-fence districts.

 A "lawful fence," by the way is defined:

"A fence shall be deemed a lawful fence when it is constructed and maintained with good and substantial posts firmly placed in the ground at intervals of not more than thirty feet, upon which posts are strung and fastened at least four barbed wires of the usual type tightly stretched and secured to the posts and spaced so that the top wire is fifty inches above the ground and the other wires at intervals below the top wire of twelve, twenty-two, and thirty-two inches. If the posts are set more than one rod apart, the wires shall be supported by stays placed not more than seven and one-half feet from each other or from the posts, extending from the top wire of the fence to the ground, and each wire of the fence securely fastened thereto."

I imagine that one problem is that not too many non-ranchers have surrounded their land with "lawful fences," although perhaps that would be a good idea.

Tanya Marsh
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