Colorado law provides every property owner with the legal right but no obligation to fence property. The state’s fencing statute dates to the early 1880s and is referred to as “open range.” The laws specify the legal responsibility of property owners and livestock owners in the state. The fence law is not part of the criminal code. Most violations are handled in civil court.
Any landowner wishing to keep livestock from his property is required to construct a “lawful” fence. According to the Colorado Department of Agriculture, the landowner has no legal options for recovering damages to crops or buildings from animals straying onto his land if there is no lawful fence in place. If the landowner has a lawful fence, and livestock breaks through the fence, it is the landowners responsibility to prove the fence was adequate before the livestock damaged it.
Livestock Owners Requirements
Colorado’s open range law does not give the stockmen the right to allow animals to range at will. According to Colorado law, livestock must be fenced away from roads and towns and county sheriffs can enforce a law concerning animals running at large.
Defining the Fence
Colorado law defines a lawful fence as at least three barbed wire strands attached to substantial posts set at approximately 20 feet apart. The fence allows other fencing materials to be substituted if it as efficient as the barbed wire fence and is sufficient to contain ordinary horses and cattle. Gates on the fence must be constructed of similar material and as strong as the rest of the fence.
Colorado stockmen are required to provide adequate grazing and water in any fenced pasture. They must also quickly recover any animal that escapes the pasture and routinely inspect fences and maintain them in good repair. Stockmen in Colorado are also required to carry liability insurance on their herd.
Applicability of Colorado Law
Colorado fence law does not apply to federal lands. Fencing requirements on federal lands are defined in the Taylor Grazing Act. This federal law supersedes any state law on federal lands.