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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.