Dating back to Utah Territorial days, Utah has been a fence-in state.  This means those who own or care for livestock have the primary responsibility to ensure livestock does not trespass onto another’s property.  Fence-out, on the other hand, largely pertains to open range lands.

In recent decades, most counties have adopted a county ordinance that supports local and county interests such as agriculture needs, historic practices, growth patterns and trends.  Not all counties have adopted the same ordinance.  As such, it’s important for ranchers and neighbors to understand that fencing ordinances may be different across county lines.  I have found contacting the county Sheriff’s office is the quickest and more reliable source to determine whether a county is “fence-in” or “fence-out” or both.    There are several counties that have both.  If a county chooses not to adopt an ordinance setting its policy, then the State law is used.  As stated earlier, the State policy operates on a “fence-in” philosophy.  

If you own livestock, fence them in.  However, there are two exceptions.  First, if animals are on open range, and second, if your county has elected to pass an ordinance different than state law on fencing in your livestock.  

If your animals wander on to someone else’s land you may not be responsible.  If you drove them onto someone else’s land, you may be.  The courts tend to look at the facts of individual cases to determine responsibility, rather than based on the policy expressed in the county ordinance.  Furthermore, the courts will look at whether what happened is an intentional and negligent acts.  Even if the ordinance is fence out, you are responsible for keeping your animals off someone else’s property.  

The proper care of livestock and respect of neighbors property and rights requires sound judgment, forward thinking and common sense.  Each landowner scenario seems unique and different.  Many interpret the laws and ordinances differently.  With these realities, it’s good to visit with your county Sherriff’s office to ensure your understanding of county ordinances is consistent with the Sherriff, his deputy’s and staff.    

For more information contact Sterling Brown 801-233-3004