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open range laws

Some states are “open range” or a “fence out” states, meaning that a livestock owner does not have a legal duty to prevent animals from getting onto the roadway. But some state legislatures have enacted statutes known as "stock laws" that modify the common law (rules contained in court opinions written by judges) and prohibit owners from allowing animals to run at large.

Texas is traditionally an 'open range' state, which means that owners of livestock are not necessarily required to fence in their animals to prevent them from wandering onto roads. However, Texas law has been modified by 'stock laws' that allow counties to require owners to prevent their animals from running at large in certain areas. These local stock laws can be enacted through a petition and election process within the county. Once a stock law is in place, livestock owners may be liable for damages caused by their animals if they are found on roadways in violation of the law. It is important for livestock owners to be aware of the specific regulations in their county, as these laws can vary significantly across the state.


Texas Statutes & Rules

Texas Agriculture Code - AGRIC § 143.074. Local Option Stock Law
This statute is relevant because it allows counties in Texas to hold elections to determine whether to implement a local option stock law, which would require owners to prevent their livestock from running at large in the specified area.

Under the Texas Agriculture Code, Section 143.074, counties in Texas have the authority to hold local option elections to decide if livestock owners in the county or a subdivision of the county must prevent their animals from running at large. If the majority of votes in the election are in favor of the stock law, it becomes unlawful for the owner of any livestock, such as cattle, horses, mules, donkeys, sheep, goats, or hogs, to permit the animals to run at large in the area covered by the election. The county commissioners' court is responsible for providing notice of the election and the results are determined by a majority of the votes cast.

Texas Agriculture Code - AGRIC § 143.102. Duty to Keep Animals From Roaming At Large
This statute specifies the duty of an animal owner in areas where a local option stock law has been adopted, indicating the owner's responsibility to prevent animals from roaming at large.

In accordance with Section 143.102 of the Texas Agriculture Code, once a local option stock law is in effect, it is the duty of the owner of any animal mentioned in the law to keep the animal from roaming at large. If an owner knowingly allows an animal to roam at large, they may be subject to a fine. This statute effectively modifies the common law 'open range' or 'fence out' rule in the areas where the local option stock law is adopted, imposing a 'fence in' requirement on livestock owners.

Texas Agriculture Code - AGRIC § 143.103. Liability for Animals Roaming At Large
This statute outlines the liability of an animal owner for damages caused by animals roaming at large in areas where a local option stock law is in effect.

Section 143.103 of the Texas Agriculture Code states that an owner who knowingly allows animals to roam at large in an area where a local option stock law is in effect is liable for all damages caused by the animals. This includes damages to crops, land, and vehicular accidents. The owner may be required to compensate the injured party for any losses incurred as a result of the animals roaming at large.

Texas Transportation Code - TRANSP § 552.007. Animals on Roadway
This statute is relevant as it addresses the general responsibilities of animal owners to prevent animals from obstructing roadways, which can be considered in conjunction with local stock laws.

Under Section 552.007 of the Texas Transportation Code, an owner or person in charge of an animal may not knowingly permit the animal to traverse or roam at large, unattended, on the right-of-way of a highway. This statute is applicable regardless of whether a local option stock law is in place and is designed to promote safety on public roadways by preventing accidents caused by animals.

Federal Statutes & Rules

Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (ICCTA) - 49 U.S.C. § 10101 et seq.
While not directly related to 'open range' or 'fence out' laws, the ICCTA regulates transportation, including the transportation of livestock across state lines, which may indirectly affect how livestock are managed within states.

The Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (ICCTA) governs the jurisdiction of the Surface Transportation Board (STB) over certain transportation activities, including the transportation of livestock. It preempts state and local laws that may interfere with interstate commerce. While it does not directly address 'open range' or 'fence out' laws, it could preempt state laws that affect the transportation of livestock in a way that would impede the free flow of commerce across state lines.

Animal Welfare Act - 7 U.S.C. § 2131 et seq.
The Animal Welfare Act sets general welfare standards for animals in the United States, which could influence state legislation on the treatment and management of livestock, potentially affecting 'open range' or 'fence out' practices.

The Animal Welfare Act establishes a set of standards for the humane care and treatment of certain animals, including those held for research, bred for commercial sale, transported commercially, or exhibited to the public. It requires that animals be provided with adequate care and treatment in the areas of housing, handling, sanitation, nutrition, water, veterinary care, and protection from extreme weather and temperatures. While it does not specifically regulate 'open range' or 'fence out' situations, it sets a precedent for the humane treatment of animals that could influence state laws regarding the responsibilities of livestock owners.

Federal-Aid Highway Act - 23 U.S.C. § 101 et seq.
This act provides federal funding for highway and road construction, which may include provisions for fencing and animal crossings that could impact 'open range' or 'fence out' areas adjacent to federally funded roadways.

The Federal-Aid Highway Act is a law that governs the construction and maintenance of the national highway system. It provides financial assistance to states for the construction of roads and highways, which may include safety features such as fencing to prevent livestock from entering roadways. While the act itself does not mandate fencing in 'open range' or 'fence out' states, the implementation of highway projects could lead to the installation of such barriers for safety reasons, potentially affecting the movement of livestock in these areas.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) - 42 U.S.C. § 4321 et seq.
NEPA requires federal agencies to assess the environmental impact of their proposed actions. This could include the construction of transportation infrastructure in 'open range' or 'fence out' areas, which may affect local livestock management practices.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies to evaluate the environmental impact of their actions, including the construction of transportation infrastructure that could affect 'open range' or 'fence out' areas. NEPA assessments may consider the impact of road construction on local wildlife and livestock, potentially leading to the implementation of measures to protect these animals and modify local livestock management practices, such as the creation of animal underpasses or overpasses to prevent animals from entering roadways.