Common Questions About Texas Livestock Laws
Chapters 142 through 146 of the Texas Agriculture Code contain most of the laws pertinent to the ranching community:
Here are answers to questions we are frequently asked:
Since 1876, the Texas Legislature has allowed for the passage of local stock laws that modify the common law rule of open range. If these laws are in place, the open range common law is modified and landowners have a duty to prevent animals from entering the highway pursuant to the stock law.
Open range means that the county has never held a local stock option election within the county; therefore the county is “open range.” In open range counties, property owners are required to build and maintain a fence that is sufficient to keep livestock off their property.
However, this does not exempt livestock owners from damages that may be caused by trespassing livestock. Even though a county is open range, livestock are not permitted to roam or traverse unattended along a U.S. or state highway. A livestock owner may be charged with a Class C misdemeanor for allowing his or her livestock to do so.
It means that at some point the entire county or a precinct, or designated area within the county, held a local stock option election and has adopted a stock law. Stock laws can vary in language. Some laws include specific species to which the stock law applies. Usually the stock law (closed range) means you are responsible for fencing in your livestock.
Some counties have enacted stock laws for part of the county, but not the whole county. Therefore, some other counties are partially open range. Some counties are closed range as to some types of livestock, but open range as to others.
Contact your county clerk or sheriff’s office. If they do not know, it may be necessary for the clerk to search the election records to determine if a local stock option election has been held to “close the range.”
Many of these elections were held between 1910 and 1930, so it may take some research to determine the status of your county. As of 2011, only 23 counties were open range in their entirety.
According to the Chapter 142 of the Texas Agriculture Code, the person in possession of the estray, or stray livestock, is required to “report the presence of the estray to the sheriff of the county in which the estray is discovered.”
There is no such thing as finders keepers regarding estray livestock in Texas or Oklahoma. The finder of an estray may be charged with “Theft of Livestock” if he or she disposed of the estray outside of the estray procedure (Section 142 of the Texas Agriculture Code and Title 4-85.3 of the Oklahoma Animal Code).
Please assist the sheriff by providing the location, number and description of the estray livestock.
No, that would be considered stealing. Contact your local sheriff and your special ranger.
Section 251 of the Texas Transportation code requires the county commissioner to give 90 days notice to those property owners who own land adjacent to the county road prior to removing a cattle guard.
The commissioner is not required to have a hearing regarding the removal, but Section 251.0096 of the Transportation Code provides that an affected resident may request the Commissioners to hold a public hearing.
The request for a public hearing must be in writing and be made before the 75th day after the date the notice is mailed.