We urge you to write your Senator and Representatives  about how antiquated these laws are.  Think back over 100 years when these laws came into effect.  The fastest moving vehicle was a horse and carriage traveling about 5 miles per hour.  To have open range on a Highway where deaths occur on a monthly basis is just too much.  I have listed several articles about loss of life and how the cattle ranchers have the power of money on their side.  These laws must be updated.  Why not have reflective collars?  I am sure that if enough people were involved we can change these outdated laws.  The journey of a 1,000 miles, start with one small single step....

Open Range Forum - Share your thoughts and experiences

Idaho Livestock Laws


25-2118. Animals on open range -- No duty to keep from highway
No person owning, or controlling the possession of, any domestic animal running on open range, shall have the duty to keep such animal off any highway on such range, and shall not be liable for damage to any vehicle or for injury to any person riding therein, caused by a collision between the vehicle and the animal. "Open range" means all uninclosed lands outside of cities, villages and herd districts, upon which cattle by custom, license, lease, or permit, are grazed or permitted to roam.

25-2119. Owner or possessor of animal not liable for animal on highway
No person owning, or controlling the possession of, any domestic animal lawfully on any highway, shall be deemed guilty of negligence by reason thereof

These laws go back over 80 years!

The Lewiston Morning Tribune

Common compassion should end the roaming of cattle across Idaho highways even if the open range law isn't changed. Lincoln County officials, in the wake of another traffic fatality, are looking into making it against the law for cattle owners to let their cattle stray. But you would think the occasional death of a motorist caused by wandering cattle would get the attention of cattle owners and take care of that problem without any change in the law.

The open range status of Idaho officially excuses cattle owners from fencing in their animals. Many fence them in anyway. But those who don't, while potentially open to civil suits, are not breaking the law.

The open range law once made a lot more sense. Hardly anybody ever died from running into a cow while riding a horse or driving a horse and buggy.

But this is the era of the automobile and the truck. Unless you adopt and enforce a statewide speeding law of 10 miles an hour, letting cattle run free in the vicinity of public highways is going to kill people. It's just a matter of time.

Some in the cattle industry protest that some drivers -- especially out in the wider and more open spaces of cattle country -- drive ridiculously fast. And they do. If you run into a cow at 100 miles an hour and die, are you or the cow's owner to blame?

Probably some of both. Even a driver going an insane rate of speed probably should be able to stupidly expect he won't encounter a cow wandering down the highway.

But the fact is, cattle in the highway can be a threat to the life and limb of motorists traveling within the legal limits. How can any one business or industry claim a right to present the public with that much danger no matter what the now-irrelevant historic basis of a lethal open range law?

The range isn't open anymore. Idaho isn't open. For better or for worse, more than a million people and their fences and their highways and their automobiles have flooded this state with a human reality that will not safely permit herds of cattle roaming here and there the way they did 100 years ago.

Have the people who claim otherwise lost all purchase on reality? -- Bill Hall

Arizonaís open range laws are profitable for ranchers, but dangerous for property owners.
by: Danny Fite, posted 8/30/03 (originally submitted to Eastern Arizona Courier)

In 1993 I was arrested and charged with the killing of livestock. One of many, very similar to several people who are forced to submit to laws that violates a persons private property rights, as well as a persons right to protect themselves from harm and physical injury.

Having lived East of Snowflake, in the then not very populated area of Cedar hills (or the then known name of The Ranch of the Golden Horse area) for the better part of 14 years, I have learned the dangers of living around cattle, which LEGALLY roam free. The free part only applies to the irresponsible ranchers who own the cattle. It is certainly not free for the owners of purchased land. My family and I have had to repeatedly repair fences around our property, Replant gardens destroyed or eaten by these unsupervised creatures, and once even had to replace 15 feet of Television cable eaten by one single cow. How do I know it was a cow? I saw it chewing with 8 inches of cable still hanging from its mouth. Iíll bet that would have been one tough cud to chew. It bewilders me that a rancher can not feed his cattle well enough but that one must come through the fence or over a cattle guard to eat 15 feet of coax. But the expenses are far greater than these typical scenarios.

In 1993 while on the property of a girlfriend I was confronted with a large danger. A 950 lb. Bull charging directly at me after attempts to herd around 12 cows off the property. Yes, the gate was left open, but I still donít feel that gives a creature of that magnitude the justification to try and charge me down. I say try because I didnít allow it to succeed. I shot at it. After three attempts from a 41 magnum it finally ran in a different direction, away from me, and back onto the property. I was not aware of its death, until it was found three days latter by my girlfriends baby sitter, who was very close with the owner of the cow, Ira Willis. To make a long story short, I was to blame. To make a long story sad, is that I would still be to blame if the cow had accomplished its initial attack.

I was charged with the felony shooting of livestock. But do to many Sheriffs officers mistakes, they were forced to drop the charges to a misdemeanor. I had to pay for the cow. But, not just one, the ONE that I shot, but three. Yes, Arizonaís treble damage law, $2500.00. Thatís why ranchers really like the killing of their cows. It profits them three fold, and they donít even have to clean up the carcass. The livestock inspector, and the Navajo county Sheriffs office does everything for them. It really does not even matter how the cow, or why the cow was killed. Whether by an unsuspecting motorist who feels that fences really keep cows off the road, or by self defense. Either way you are at fault by the law. Innocent citizen 0, irresponsible rancher 2500. You lose.

With the population in the area, now more than tripled since 1993, the dangers present are even far greater. Reforms to these laws are beyond compromise. They MUST be changed. This is no longer the wild wild west, itís a community with thousands of people and hundreds of children. I have heard the saying , rules are meant to be broken, yet I believe some laws are meant to be broken, changed, modified and reformed. Especially the open range laws. We need to protect people, not cows. Itís sad when here in America, the land of the free, a place where our money states in God we trust, cows have more rights through dumb laws and irresponsible ranchers than humans do. Maybe our money should read ďIn Cows we Trust.Ē

Danny Fite

Fatal road mix: Cars, livestock
Michael Ferraresi
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 16, 2004 12:00 AM

The death of a woman who struck and killed two wandering horses with her BMW on a road connecting Rio Verde and Scottsdale highlights the conflict between urban sprawl and open range communities.

Rio Verde Drive, where the weekend accident occurred, is nicknamed "the Highway" for drivers who travel faster than the 50 mph speed limit and ignore open range signs illustrated with a cow symbol.

Horses and cattle roam freely on both sides of the two-lane road, and neighbors have long worried about an influx of speeding drivers meeting with livestock as more commuters use the road to get to their upscale gated communities on the outskirts of the city.

Those who petitioned for zoning changes said unfortunately it took a fatal accident to draw attention to Arizona open range laws, which allow livestock to roam freely while making drivers liable.

Kathleen J. Norwood Hines, 29, was killed shortly before another car struck a third horse late Saturday night, leading a Maricopa County Sheriff's Posse to her mangled convertible more than 300 yards off the road.

Hines, a Fountain Hills resident, was not the first driver to encounter livestock in the largely equestrian area along Rio Verde Drive east of Scottsdale.

"This is the first (accident) that got all the notoriety, but it happens all the time," said Nena Henry, founding president of the Rio Verde Horseman's Association, who lives off Rio Verde Drive.

"We had a case a couple months back where an open range mare was killed, and it was just so gory. It's awful."

Henry and other neighbors of Rio Verde Foothills, a 20-square-mile Maricopa County island, have also complained about livestock owner George Williams, a longtime resident of the area.

The three horses killed in Saturday's accidents belonged to Williams, who allows livestock to roam from his ranch on 132nd Street in Scottsdale as far as 160th Street, where the accidents occurred.

Williams did not return calls for comment Monday.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said electronic signs will be added and patrols

By Alan Burkhart

Holy Cows?

December 04, 2005 09:34 AM EST

With so many different issues facing American society these days itís easy to let a few of them slip through the cracks Ė until one of them hits close to home. Those good folks in New London, CT probably never thought about eminent domain abuse until they found out their homes were being stolen by the city government.

Few parents in Texas were aware of the fact of their childrenís school records being public domain information, until concerns of pedophiles brought the issue to the forefront.

And me? Iíd have never given a momentís thought to the Open Range laws in some western states if not for making a friend who is under attack for defending his home and family against a greedy rancher. Now that friend is facing felony charges and could end up in prison.

In 2003, Kent Knudson of Snowflake, AZ rushed his mother to the hospital when she suffered a stroke. In his haste to get medical care for his mom, who was an Alzheimerís patient, he forgot to close the gate to his property. When he returned three days later, approximately 30 cows belonging to a nearby rancher were in his yard. They had broken a sewer line, trampled his garden, and left a mine field of ďcow pattiesĒ all over his property.

Kent called the rancher, Dee Johnson, and asked him for assistance. Johnson essentially dismissed Kentís request and told him that it would be the next day before he could remove his cattle. Kent went back outside and tried to shoo the cattle through the gate without success. He then fired warning shots with a .22 caliber rifle. He had no intention of killing or injuring any of the cows, which is why he was using such a small-caliber gun. Kent has larger guns.

Perhaps it was an untimely coincidence. Perhaps the gunshot frightened the cow to death. Whatever the reason, one of the cows fell dead on the spot. The cow had a bullet in its lung. According to Kent the bullet doesnít match his gun. I would tend to agree, since itíd be just about impossible to kill a grown cow with so small a gun. Youíd have to poke the muzzle in its ear or eye and pull the trigger. A .22 caliber slug simply isnít capable of journeying all the way into the lung of so large an animal.

That doesnít seem to matter to the authorities or the rancher. Kentís attorneys have made every effort to pay for the cow and settle the case, but these people evidently plan to make an example of him. His trial is finally taking place December 21st. He faces a possible 2 years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. And since this is a felony, he could also lose his voting rights.

Letís consider this objectively. While I can understand his distress over his motherís condition, he should have remembered to close the gate. And, perhaps it was a bit imprudent to fire the gun near the cattle. But does he deserve to go to prison for such a thing? Kent Knudson isnít a raging extremist with an arsenal in his home. Heís a mild-mannered amateur photographer who has spent years caring for his disabled mother.

The real question here should be whether the archaic Open Range laws are still practical in modern times. With the exception of Montana, all of the states that have Open Range laws currently contain more people than cattle. Automobiles travel much faster than sixty or seventy years ago. People also do more nighttime driving. Should a Black Angus bull have the right of way at midnight on a busy highway? Where is the consideration for people? A 2000 pound Angus bull, struck at 60 mph by the average automobile could wipe out an entire family.

The state of Montana recently passed a new law amending existing legislation. This new legislation reaffirms existing law stating that except in cases of intentional neglect or abuse, a livestock owner has no duty to keep his cows and horses off public highways. So, if you manage to survive a collision with a horse, youíre not only without a vehicleÖ you also bought yourself a dead horse.

There is, finally, some hope on the horizon. In September of 2005 a series of livestock-related accidents has prompted residents of Maricopa County, Arizona to demand changes in the Open range laws there. Beginning in 2006, a 20 square mile area of that county will not allow Open Range grazing due to the density of the human population. One can only hope that people in other areas will see this bit of progress and demand similar changes. In Arizona, cattle owners are outnumbered by ďnon-cattle ownersĒ by a ratio of 5000 to 1. Does it make sense that this tiny minority should be able to endanger so many people?

The very idea of people dying in crashes to save ranchers a few bucks in fence-building money is beyond offensive. Itís both vulgar and profane. The Wild West needs to join the 21st Century.

Related Reading:

http://www.21stcenturycares.org/ranchers.htm  Great Site!

Alan Burkhart is a freelance political writer, cross-country trucker, and proud citizen of the reddest of the Red States - Mississippi. You can reach him via e-mail at: alan@alanburkhart.com or by visiting his website: www.alanburkhart.com.


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