It’s a dark night, and you are out driving in the country, far from the illumination of the city. Unfortunately, when you round a curve in the road, you realize you are face to face with a large animal. You try to slam on the brakes or swerve, but you can’t safely avoid the creature in front of you, so you wind up smashing into it.
Upon exiting your vehicle, you realize that you have struck a large farm animal, such as a cow or horse. If you ask the average person about property rights in that situation, they might mistakenly believe that the driver of the car assumes some liability. After all, they are the ones who struck the animal, thereby causing damage to someone else’s property.
However, under Colorado law, the person driving the vehicle may be able to take action against the animal’s owner for their injuries and the property damage the animal caused to their vehicle, as it is illegal for farm animals to travel on public roads, even unattended by their human owners.
Colorado laws require proper fencing for farm animals
An animal that weighs as much as a small car or motorcycle is potentially very dangerous to the public. While cows, horses and other large animals kept as farm animals, such as emus or ostriches, typically aren’t considered dangerous or violent, they can do a lot of damage in a motor vehicle collision. These animals are incapable of respecting the rules of the road, which is why the obligations fall on their owners to make sure that everyone stays safe.
State laws in Colorado mandate proper fencing for all people who want to own or raise large farm animals. Not only does the fence help keep the animals safe, but it also protects the public from the damages that large animals could cause if ranging freely on open roads or in public spaces.
Farmers should maintain fences and check on livestock
Animals can and do damage or get around fencing. Goats, in particular, have a reputation for outsmarting any fencing system developed to contain them. However, larger animals like horses and cows can also break or escape from fencing. Those who maintain animal husbandry spaces should conduct routine inspections to determine whether the fencing remains secure and stable. After all, weather and animal activity can loosen individual posts and increase the likelihood of fencing failing.
What an animal breaks down the fence or escapes, their owner has an obligation to find the animal and return them to a secure shelter as soon as possible. When someone doesn’t notice an escaped animal, the result could be a crash that totals a vehicle and leaves humans and the animal with severe injuries (or even fatal ones). While legal action against the farmer won’t undo the injuries caused by loose livestock, at least you can recover the financial impact of that farmer’s negligence on your life.