Legal Questions and Answers for the Horse Community

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Rachel Kosmal McCart
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Stallion Keeping ?What's the Law?

Q: I live in a rural area in a small California county and my neighbors have a stallion that keeps getting out of their pasture and trying to breed our mares. Is there anything I can do besides improving my own fencing to keep him out? Aren't there laws about keeping stallions?

A: At Equine Legal Solutions, this question comes up often, particularly in the spring and summer months. While California has many regulations concerning horse racing, surprisingly, it doesn't have state laws regarding the keeping of stallions. Because the state has not regulated this area, towns and counties may set their own standards.

Most municipalities, and in rural areas, counties, have zoning ordinances that set a limit on the number of animals per acre and the types of animals that property owners can keep. A few areas even have zoning ordinances specifically addressing stallion keeping. How many and what types of animals are permitted is typically dependent upon how the property is zoned. To find out whether your area has any zoning ordinances that might address your stallion issue, contact your city or county zoning office and inquire. At the same time, to make sure that your own activities are above reproach, you can ask how your property is zoned, and how many animals you are legally permitted to have on your property. Many times, it is most helpful to go into the zoning office for a consultation rather than calling, but be sure to call ahead and ask whether you should make an appointment to speak with a zoning officer.

Before taking any official actions against your neighbor, try to resolve the matter by talking it over. Perhaps your neighbor is new to horse ownership, or new to stallion ownership, and they are as frustrated as you are that their stallion keeps getting out. Maybe they don't understand how dangerous a loose stallion can be. Often, owners of problem stallions purchased the horse as a colt and now that it has matured into a stallion, they have no idea how to control him. Possibly, they aren't aware that gelding is a relatively simple and inexpensive procedure and that their stallion will quickly become more manageable after he is a gelding.

There is truth in the old adage that good fences make good neighbors.?nbsp; You could give your neighbors the gift of knowledge by loaning them your copy of Cherry Hill's invaluable resource for horse owning homeowners, Horse Keeping on a Small Acreage,?which discusses fencing options in detail. Perhaps you know a good fencing contractor that you could recommend, or you can volunteer some time to help your neighbor put up hot wire. Youll probably have to live next door to your neighbor for a long time, so it's worth the effort to try to resolve the matter amicably.

If your best efforts to resolve the matter informally fail, then it's time to consider official actions. If, after consultation with your zoning officer, you believe your neighbor is violating zoning ordinances, consider filing a complaint with your local zoning office. However, before you do so, remember that zoning enforcement is almost entirely complaint-driven. Most homeowners are well aware of this fact and their first action is often to retaliate against the person whom they believe filed a complaint against them, usually by turning around and filing their own complaint against that person. So, before filing a zoning complaint, make sure that your own property is 100% compliant with all zoning ordinances, including setback requirements, and that you have all required building permits in place for all of your structures.

What about calling animal control? In most areas, animal control officers aren't equipped to deal with large animals. They don't have the equipment to catch and transport large animals, or the funding or facilities to house them. However, they may be able to issue citations, so it's worth a phone call to determine what they may be able to do to assist you. Again, you should be aware that your neighbor will likely know exactly who called animal control, and therefore you should make sure your own animal keeping is beyond reproach.

About the Author: Rachel Kosmal McCart, the founder of Equine Legal Solutions, is a lifelong horsewoman and experienced lawyer. Equine Legal Solutions, the Legal Counsel with Horse Sense TM , offers a full range of legal services for the horse community, including dispute resolution, customized contracts and risk management assessment.
Copyright ©2008 Equine Legal Solutions and the Bay Area Equestrian Network. All rights reserved. The above article is the property of the Author and may not be duplicated or redistributed in any way without permission.