University of Vermont AAHS

Washington Livestock Laws




16.08.010. Liability for injury to stock by dogs
The owner or keeper of any dog shall be liable to the owner of any animal killed or injured by such dog for the amount of damages sustained and costs of collection, to be recovered in a civil action.




16.24.010. Restricted areas -- Range areas
The county legislative authority of any county of this state shall have the power to designate by an order made and published, as provided in RCW 16.24.030, certain territory as stock restricted area within such county in which it shall be unlawful to permit livestock of any kind to run at large. No territory so designated shall be less than two square miles in area. RCW 16.24.010 through 16.24.065 shall not affect counties having adopted township organization. All territory not so designated shall be range area, in which it shall be lawful to permit cattle, horses, mules, or donkeys to run at large: PROVIDED, That the county legislative authority may designate areas where it shall be unlawful to permit any livestock other than cattle to run at large.

16.24.020. Hearing -- Notice
Within sixty days after the taking effect of RCW 16.24.010 through 16.24.065, the county legislative authority of each of the several counties of the state may make an order fixing a time and place when a hearing will be had, notice of which shall be published at least once each week for two successive weeks in some newspaper having a general circulation within the county. It shall be the duty of the county legislative authority at the time fixed for such hearing, or at the time to which such hearing may be adjourned, to hear all persons interested in the establishment of range areas or stock restricted areas as defined in RCW 16.24.010 through 16.24.065.

16.24.030. Order establishing area -- Publication
Within thirty days after the conclusion of any such hearing the county legislative authority shall make an order describing the stock restricted areas within the county where livestock may not run at large, which order shall be entered upon the records of the county and published in a newspaper having general circulation in such county at least once each week for four successive weeks.

16.24.040. Penalty
Any person, or any agent, employee or representative of a corporation, violating any of the provisions of such order after the same shall have been published or posted as provided in RCW 16.24.030 or, violating any provision of this chapter, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

16.24.050. Change of boundaries
hen the county legislative authority of any county deem[s] it advisable to change the boundary or boundaries of any stock restricted area, a hearing shall be held in the same manner as provided in RCW 16.24.020. If the county legislative authority decides to change the boundary or boundaries of any stock restricted area or areas, it shall within thirty days after the conclusion of such hearing make an order describing said change or changes. Such order shall be entered upon the records of the county and published in a newspaper having general circulation in such county once each week for four successive weeks.

16.24.060. Road signs in range areas
At the point where a public road enters a range area, and at such other points thereon within such area as the county legislative authority shall designate, there shall be erected a road sign bearing the words: "RANGE AREA. WATCH OUT FOR LIVESTOCK."

16.24.065. Stock at large in restricted areas -- Running at large on state or federal land

(1) No person owning or in control of any livestock shall willfully or negligently allow such livestock to run at large in any
stock restricted area or to wander or stray upon the right-of-way of any public highway lying within a stock restricted area when not in the charge of some person.

(2) Livestock may run at large upon lands belonging to the state of Washington or the United States only when the owner of the livestock has been granted grazing privileges in writing.

16.24.070. Stock on highway right-of-way -- Limitations
It shall be unlawful for any person to herd or move any livestock over, along or across the right-of-way of any public highway, or portion thereof, within any stock restricted area, without having in attendance a sufficient number of persons to control the movement of such livestock and to warn or otherwise protect vehicles traveling upon such public highway from any danger by reason of such livestock being herded or moved thereon.

16.24.090. Animals at large -- Limitations -- Defense
Except as provided in chapter 16.24 RCW, a person who owns or has possession, charge, or control of horses, mules, donkeys, cattle, goats, sheep or swine shall not negligently allow them to run at large at any time or within any territory. It shall not be necessary for any person to fence against such animals, and it shall be no defense to any action or proceedings brought pursuant to this chapter or chapter 16.04 RCW that the party injured by or restraining such animals did not have his or her lands enclosed by a lawful fence: PROVIDED, That such animals may be driven upon the highways while in charge of sufficient attendants.

16.24.100. Prosecution -- Proof of ownership
In any prosecution under chapter 16.24 RCW proof that the animal running at large is branded with the registered or known brand of the defendant shall be prima facie evidence that the defendant is the owner of said animal.

16.24.110. Public nuisance -- Impounding
Any horses, mules, donkeys, or cattle of any age running at large or trespassing in violation of chapter 16.24 RCW as now or hereafter amended, which are not restrained as provided by RCW 16.04.010, are declared to be a public nuisance. The sheriff of the county where found and the nearest brand inspector shall have authority to impound such animals which are not restrained as provided by RCW 16.04.010.

16.24.120. Impounding -- Procedure
Upon taking possession of any livestock at large contrary to the provisions of RCW 16.13.020, or any unclaimed livestock submitted or impounded, by any person, at any public livestock market or any other facility approved by the director, the sheriff or brand inspector shall cause it to be transported to and impounded at the nearest public livestock market licensed under chapter 16.65 RCW or at such place as approved by the director. If the sheriff has impounded an animal in accordance with this section, he shall forthwith notify the nearest brand inspector of the department of agriculture, who shall examine the animal and, by brand, tattoo, or other identifying characteristic, shall attempt to ascertain the ownership thereof.

16.24.130. Impounding -- Notice -- Copy to owner
The brand inspector shall cause to be published once in a newspaper published in the county where the animal was found, a notice of the impounding. The notice shall state:

(1) A description of the animal, including brand, tattoo or other identifying characteristics;

(2) When and where found;

(3) Where impounded; and

(4) That if unclaimed, the animal will be sold at a public livestock market sale, and the date of such sale: PROVIDED, That if no newspaper shall be published in such county, copies of the notice shall be posted at four commonly frequented places therein.

If the animal is marked with a brand or tattoo which is registered with the director of agriculture, the brand inspector, on or before the date of publication or posting, shall send a copy of the notice to the owner of record by registered mail.

16.24.140. Impounding -- Owner to pay costs
Upon claiming any animal impounded under this chapter, the owner shall pay all costs of transportation, advertising, legal proceedings, and keep of the animal, except as provided under RCW 16.04.100.

16.24.150. Sale of impounded animal--Retroactive effect
If no person shall claim the animal within ten days after the date of publication or posting of the notice, it shall be sold at the next succeeding public livestock market sale to be held at the sales yard where impounded, provided that in the director's discretion the department of agriculture may otherwise cause the animal to be sold at public sale.

The legislature intends this to be a clarification of existing law; therefore, this section shall have retroactive effect as of December 1, 1994.

16.24.160. Conduct of sale -- Disposition of proceeds
The proceeds of the sale of animals impounded under this chapter, after deducting the costs of sale, shall be impounded in the estray fund of the department of agriculture, and if no valid claim is made within one year from the date of sale, the director of the department of agriculture shall transfer the proceeds of sale to the brand fund of the department to be used for the enforcement of this chapter.

16.24.170. Purchase of animal, restrictions
No law enforcement officer shall, directly or indirectly, purchase any animal sold under the provisions of this chapter, or any interest therein.

16.24.180. Castration or gelding of stock at large
It shall be lawful for any person having cows or heifers running at large in this state to take up or capture and castrate, at the risk of the owner, at any time between the first day of March and the fifteenth day of May, any bull above the age of ten months found running at large out of the enclosed grounds of the owner or keeper. It shall be lawful for any person to take up or capture and geld, at the risk of the owner, between April 1 and September 30 of any year, any stud horse or jackass or any male mule above the age of eighteen months found running at large out of the enclosed grounds of the owner or keeper. If the said animal shall die, as a result of such castration, the owner shall have no recourse against the person who shall have taken up or captured and castrated, or caused to be castrated, the said animal: PROVIDED, Such act of castration shall have been skillfully done by a person accustomed to doing the same: AND PROVIDED FURTHER, That if the person so taking up or capturing such animal, or causing it to be so taken up or captured, shall know the owner or keeper of such animal, and shall know that said animal is being kept for breeding purposes, it shall be his duty forthwith to notify such owner or keeper of the taking up of said animal, and if such owner or keeper shall not within two days after being so notified pay for the reasonable costs of keeping of said animal, and take and safely keep said animal thereafter within his own enclosures, then it shall be lawful for the taker-up of said animal to castrate the same, and the owner thereof shall pay a reasonable sum for such act of castration, if done skillfully, as hereinbefore required, and shall also pay for the keeping of said animal as above provided, and the amount for which he may be liable therefor may be recovered in an action at law in any court having jurisdiction thereof: AND PROVIDED FURTHER, That if said animal should be found running at large a third time within the same year, and within the prohibited dates hereinbefore mentioned, it shall be lawful for any person to capture and castrate the animal without giving any notice to the owner or keeper whatever. For purposes of this section, geld and castrate shall have the same meaning.

16.24.190. Bull breed restrictions
It shall be unlawful for any person, firm, association or corporation to turn upon or allow to run at large on any range area in this state any bull other than a registered bull of a recognized beef breed. All persons running cattle in common on any range area may, however, agree to run any purebred or crossbred bull of any breed, registered or unregistered, as they may deem appropriate for their area.

16.24.200. Bull ratio restrictions
Before any person, firm, association or corporation turns upon a range area in this state any female cattle of breeding age of more than fifteen in number, they shall procure and turn with said female breeding cattle one registered bull of recognized beef breed for every forty females or fraction thereof of twenty-five or over. All persons running cattle in common on any range area may, however, agree to any other proportion of bulls to female cattle of breeding age as they may deem appropriate for their area.

16.24.210. Bull breed and ratio restrictions not applicable to counties west of Cascades
RCW 16.24.190 and 16.24.200 shall not apply to counties lying west of the summit of the Cascade mountains.

16.24.220. Separating estrays from herd
It shall be the duty of any and all persons searching or hunting for stray horses, mules or cattle, to drive the band or herd in which they may find their stray horses, mules or cattle, into the nearest corral before separating their said stray animals from the balance of the herd or band; that in order to separate their said stray animals from the herd or band, the person or persons owning said stray shall drive them out of and away from the corral in which they may be driven before setting the herd at large.

16.24.230. Moving another's livestock from range
No person shall remove any livestock belonging to another from the range on which they are permitted to run at large, without the prior consent of the owner thereof. The owner of any livestock may move his or her own livestock, together with such other livestock as cannot be separated from his or her own, to the nearest corral, or other facility in order to separate his or her own livestock, if the other livestock are returned to the same location from which they were moved within twenty-four hours.




16.60.010. Lawful fence defined
A lawful fence shall be of at least four barbed, horizontal, well-stretched wires, spaced so that the top wire is forty-eight inches, plus or minus four inches, above the ground and the other wires at intervals below the top wire of twelve, twenty-two, and thirty-two inches. These wires shall be securely fastened to substantial posts set firmly in the ground as nearly equidistant as possible, but not more than twenty-four feet apart. If the posts are set more than sixteen feet apart, the wires shall be supported by stays placed no more than eight feet from each other or from the posts.

16.60.011. Other lawful fences
All other fences as strong and as well calculated as the fence described in RCW 16.60.010 shall be lawful fences.

16.60.015. Liability for damages -- Restraint -- Notice
Any person making and maintaining in good repair around his or her enclosure or enclosures, any fence such as is described in RCW 16.60.010 and 16.60.011, may recover in a suit for trespass before the nearest court having competent jurisdiction, from the owner or owners of any animal or animals which shall break through such fence, in full for all damages sustained on account of such trespass, together with the costs of suits; and the animal or animals, so trespassing, may be taken and held as security for the payment of such damages and costs: PROVIDED, That such person shall provide notice as required under RCW 16.04.020 and 16.04.025: PROVIDED FURTHER, That such person shall have such fences examined and the damages assessed by three reliable, disinterested parties and practical farmers, within five days next after the trespass has been committed: AND, PROVIDED FURTHER, That if, before trial, the owner of such trespassing animal or animals, shall have tendered the person injured any costs which may have accrued, and also the amount in lieu of damages which shall equal or exceed the amount of damages afterwards awarded by the court or jury, and the person injured shall refuse the same and cause the trial to proceed, such person shall pay all costs and receive only the damages awarded.

16.60.020. Partition fence -- Reimbursement
When any fence has been, or shall hereafter be, erected by any person on the boundary line of his land and the person owning land adjoining thereto shall make, or cause to be made, an inclosure, so that such fence may also answer the purpose of inclosing his ground, he shall pay the owner of such fence already erected one-half of the value of so much thereof as serves for a partition fence between them: PROVIDED, That in case such fence has woven wire or other material known as hog fencing, then the adjoining owner shall not be required to pay the extra cost of such hog fencing over and above the cost of erecting a lawful fence, as by law defined, unless such adjoining owner has his land fenced with hog fencing and uses the partition fence to make a hog enclosure of his land, then he shall pay to the one who owns said hog fence one-half of the value thereof.

16.60.030. Partition fence -- Erection -- Notice
When two or more persons own land adjoining which is inclosed by one fence, and it becomes necessary for the protection of the interest of one party said partition fence should be made between them, the other or others, when notified thereof, shall erect or cause to be erected one- half of such partition fence, said fence to be erected on, or as near as practicable, the line of said land.

16.60.040. Partition fence -- Failure to build -- Recovery of half of cost
If, after notice has been given by either party and a reasonable length of time has elapsed, the other party neglect or refuse to erect or cause to be erected, the one- half of such fence, the party giving notice may proceed to erect or cause to be erected the entire partition fence, and collect by law one-half of the cost thereof from the other party.

16.60.050. Partition fence -- Hog fencing
The respective owners of adjoining inclosures shall keep up and maintain in good repair all partition fences between such inclosures in equal shares, so long as they shall continue to occupy or improve the same; and in case either of the parties shall desire to make such fence capable of turning hogs and the other party does not desire to use it for such purpose, then the party desiring to use it shall have the right to attach hog-fencing material to the posts of such fence, which hog fencing shall remain the property of the party who put it up, and he may remove it at any time he desires: PROVIDED, That he leaves the fence in as good condition as it was when the hog fencing was by him attached, the natural decay of the posts excepted. The attaching of such hog fencing shall not relieve the other party from the duty of keeping in repair his part of such fence, as to all materials used in said fence additional to said hog fencing.

16.60.055. Fence on the land of another by mistake -- Removal
When any person shall unwittingly or by mistake, erect any fence on the land of another, and when by a line legally determined that fact shall be ascertained, such person may enter upon the premises and remove such fence at any time within three months after such line has been run as aforesaid: PROVIDED, That when the fence to be removed forms any part of a fence enclosing a field of the other party having a crop thereon, such first person shall not remove such fence until such crop might, with reasonable diligence, have been gathered and secured, although more than three months may have elapsed since such division line was run.

16.60.060. Partition fence -- Discontinuance
When any party shall wish to lay open his inclosure, he shall notify any person owning adjoining inclosures, and if such person shall not pay to the party giving notice one- half the value of any partition fence between such enclosures, within three months after receiving such notice, the party giving notice may proceed to remove one-half of such fence, as provided in RCW 16.60.055.

16.60.062. Assessing value of partition fence
In assessing the value of any partition fence, the parties shall proceed as provided for the assessment of damages in RCW 16.60.020.

16.60.064. Impeachment of assessment -- Damages
Upon the trial of any cause occurring under the provisions of RCW 16.60.010 through 16.60.076, the defendant may impeach any such assessment, and in that case the court or the jury shall determine the damages.

16.60.075. Damages by breachy animals
The owner of any animal that is unruly, and in the habit of breaking through or throwing down fences, if after being notified that such animal is unruly and in the habit of breaking through or throwing down fences as aforesaid, he shall allow such animal to run at large, shall be liable for all damages caused by such animal, and any and all other animals, that may be in company with such animal.

16.60.076. Proof
In case of actions for damages under RCW 16.60.010 through 16.60.076, it shall be sufficient to prove that the fence was lawful when the break was made.

16.60.080. Temporary gate across highway
Whenever any inhabitant of this state shall have his fences removed by floods or destroyed by fire, the county commissioners of the county in which he resides shall have power to grant a license or permit for him or her to put a convenient gate or gates across any highway for a limited period of time, to be named in their order, in order to secure him from depredations upon his crops until he can repair his fences, and they shall grant such license or permit for no longer period than they may think absolutely necessary.

16.60.085. Temporary gate across highway -- Auditor may grant permit
It shall be lawful for the auditor of any county to grant such permit in vacation, but his license shall not extend past the next meeting of the commissioner's court.

16.60.090. Failure to remove gate -- Penalty
Any person retaining a gate across the highway after his license shall expire, shall be subject to a fine of one dollar for the first day and fifty cents for each subsequent day he shall retain the same, and it may be removed by the road supervisor, as an obstruction, at the cost of the person placing or keeping it upon the highway.

16.60.095. Fees
The fees of the auditor under RCW 16.60.080 through 16.60.095 shall be paid by the applicant.

Amended in 1995.
Reviewed and updated by AAHS in December 2001.

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