Trespass By Animals
In the old courts of England, the owner of live-stock was held strictly liable for any damages to person or property done by the livestock straying onto the property of another. The mere fact that animals strayed and damaged crops, other livestock, or personal property was sufficient to hold the owner liable for the injuries inflicted by cattle, sheep, goats, and horses. This strict liability position made sense in the confines of a small island such as England, but in the United States with herds of livestock wandering over vast expanses of land, a different process developed. The legislatures enacted statutes which provided that livestock were free to wander and that the owner was not responsible for damage inflicted by those livestock unless they entered land enclosed by a legal fence. These became known as open range laws. Subsequently, certain states reversed the open range laws and required the owners of livestock to fence in their livestock. This position was similar to the common law position, only instead of strict liability, the livestock owner could be held liable only upon a showing that the livestock escaped due to the owner’s negligence.