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Editorial: It’s time for Texas to lose the ‘Old West’ mentality
From the publisher...October 26, 2010 | 2,982 views | 11 comments
There is a proposition on the ballots in Wilson County that is causing a great deal of angst among local voters and livestock owners.
Texas in general still uses open range law for its livestock, unless voters approve otherwise. Wilson County has traditionally been an “open range” county, but will have the opportunity to change that on Nov. 2.
The fact that we still are an open range county may come as a surprise to many, especially folks new to this area. To old-timers, that’s just the way it’s always been.
While today’s open range may not quite be like the open range of the “old West” when livestock roamed freely without worry of fences, it nevertheless may reflect the mentality of a bygone era.
The open range laws may have been fine in the days of dirt roads and speed limits well under 50 mph. Today, many farm-to-market roads post a 60-mph speed limit at night. That is no place for a stray animal.
If you’ve ever encountered a horse or a cow, especially a black cow, along a country road at night, you know how frightening that can be. On a dark night, these animals can be almost impossible to spot, and even then, such an animal is unpredictable in what it will do next. They are as likely to dart out in front of your vehicle as they are to turn and run in the opposite direction.
Even now, however, the open range law, does not apply to federal and state highway rights of way.
Since becoming a state in 1845, Texas has always been considered an open range state. As recently as 1999, the Texas courts have refused to impose as common law the requirement of livestock owners to prevent their animals from roaming at large.
However, the breadth of the open range doctrine is not
without its limitations. Rather, there are two basic exceptions to the open range doctrine. These exceptions constitute a livestock owner’s only duty to restrain animals from roaming at large.
The Texas Agriculture Code states, “[a] person who owns or has responsibility for the control of a horse, mule, donkey, cow, bull, steer, hog, sheep, or goat may not knowingly permit the animal to traverse or roam at large, unattended, on the right-of-way of a highway.” The statute defines a highway to include U.S. highways and state highways, but does not include numbered farm-to-market roads.
While the vast majority of livestock owners are upstanding and responsible when it comes to maintaining good fences to contain their animals, there are always a few exceptions. They are the ones who tend to exploit the open range laws, much to the chagrin of their neighbors.
The U.S. and state highways in Texas already are considered closed range, but that leaves the 40,000-plus miles of farm-to-market roads and county roads in Texas as open range. They remain open range unless voters approve otherwise.
Wilson County voters will have this opportunity on Nov. 2.
At the top of the ballot, the first two items read as follows:
Local Option Stock Law Election
Letting horses, mules, jacks,
jennets, donkeys, hogs, sheep,
and goats run at large
in Wilson County.
__ FOR __ AGAINST
Adoption of the Stock Law.
__ FOR __ AGAINST
To continue the status quo and keep Wilson County’s open range, voters should vote FOR the first one and AGAINST the second one.
To change the open range to closed range throughout the county, including farm-to-market and county roads, vote AGAINST the first one and FOR the second one.
Your Opinions and Comments
GRAND PRAIRIE TX
April 17, 2013 6:30pm
GRAND PRAIRIE TX
April 17, 2013 11:01am
April 17, 2013 9:04am
GRAND PRAIRIE TX
April 17, 2013 8:10am
Equatorial Guinea, West Africa
April 17, 2013 2:42am
Donna L Henderson
April 16, 2013 11:20pm
Rock'n chair Rambler
Over Taxed, TX
October 27, 2010 7:54am
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