Renowned poet Robert Frost is credited with the saying "Good fences make good neighbors," and those who want to keep livestock safely corralled or keep pest animals turned away know this to be true. But fencing laws have become much more complicated than Frost's simple statement conveys.

Fence in - fence out

Much of the country now has fencing laws that specify that owners of a property must fence their livestock in to control them and prevent them straying onto a neighbor's property. These states are commonly called "stock law" states, and many have enacted legislation that holds the owner responsible for damage that an animal causes if they knowingly allow it to range outside of the confining fence.  

Conversely, there are also some states, including Wyoming, Idaho, and Nevada, where all or part of the state is considered to be "open range." In these states, property owners who do not want ranging livestock to come onto their land must build a fence to prevent them from doing so. While open range was once common in nearly every state, expanding cities with growing populations, traffic, and safety concerns have led to it falling out of favor in all but the most sparsely populated areas. 

Share and share alike

In some states, including Missouri, fences that are located on the boundary between two landowners are handled in a unique manner. When a boundary fence needs to be built, repaired, or replaced, the requesting owner must notify their adjoining landowner of their intention. 

The two landowners must then agree to meet at the aforementioned fence line, at a central location. When facing each other, the two owners must agree to each erect a new fence or repair or replace the existing one, with each landowner taking responsibility for the portion of the fence located to their right at that time. If no satisfactory agreement is reached between the two neighbors, the matter is referred to an associate circuit judge to help resolve the dispute using further legal actions. 

Putting your best face forward

While more of a custom than actual law, erecting a fence in a residential area usually means that the finished side of the fence will face outward toward neighbors and the street. While this can seem odd to the property owner who builds the fence, it helps with neighborly relations and improves curb appeal for your home and the entire area. 

Whether you are a livestock owner in need of cattle fencing, a home gardener hoping to keep deer from eating your lettuce, or a person looking for a simple privacy fence, a properly designed, well-constructed fence built to comply with local laws and customs is a valuable addition to your property. To learn more about your options for fencing your property, contact a fence contractor in your area like those found at Straight Shooter Game Fencing.