Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Stallion Fencing Requirements
Every spring, Equine Legal Solutions receives a number of calls and emails from folks asking what legal requirements there are for housing a stallion. Often, the callers are mare owners suffering from unwanted visits from a neighborhood stallion. Other times, the callers are concerned about a stallion housed on a neighboring property behind fencing that appears to be constructed largely of baling twine and prayer. A few calls are from responsible stallion owners who want to be sure that they are legally compliant.
In a few areas, specific zoning regulations address the keeping of stallions. To find out whether your area has such regulations, contact your city or county zoning office and inquire.
In the absence of specific zoning regulations, the requirements for housing a stallion are no different than the requirements for housing mares and geldings or other types of livestock: the enclosure must be reasonably designed and maintained to contain the animals. For stallions, this generally means a higher and sturdier fence than would normally be required for other horses.
In some states, horse owners (and other livestock owners) have a legal responsibility to keep their animals contained on their property. In such states, if an escaped horse or cow causes property damage, the legal presumption is that the owner was negligent in permitting the animal to escape. This presumption can be rebutted by showing that the owner exercised reasonable diligence in preventing the escape (e.g., maintaining fences in good condition, fences designed to keep livestock of that type contained).
In other states, livestock owners have no affirmative duty to keep their animals contained, but a showing of negligence in permitting an animal to escape can still result in liability. Some factors that had led to a determination of negligence in legal cases involving escaped horses are: a history of animals escaping from the property, fences down or in obvious disrepair.
One big gray area is "open range" areas, where cattle and other livestock are permitted to roam freely. "Open range" is a legal designation and open range areas are typically found only in rural cattle-ranching areas of Western states. Historically, in open range areas, it is the land owner's responsibility to fence out unwanted visitors, and motorists driving on public highways assume the risk of livestock being on the highway. However, recent case law suggests that the open range may no longer be sufficient as a defense to lawsuits brought against motorists injured by loose livestock.