Grego Studies Private Property Laws and Livestock Retrieval
Mike Seals - October 21, 2020 10:14 pm
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Jim Grego, R-Wilburton, today hosted an interim study before the House Judiciary Committee to examine current statute regarding private property and the retrieval of livestock or hunting dogs.
“Under current law, if your hunting dog or bull goes onto your neighbor’s property and you haven’t gotten permission to retrieve the animal, you could be charged with trespassing,” Grego said. “While it’s important to preserve the rights of private property owners, it’s also important we learn more about the issues that have been caused by the current law so we can consider ways to address these problems.”
Grego said he requested the study after discussions with Stuart Joslin, one of his constituents who serves as the president of Oklahoma Dog Hunters Association.
Joslin spoke before the committee regarding the issues that hunting dogs’ owners face when their dog enters adjoining property.
“When a hunting dog follows game, when he starts on the trail and he stays on it, he doesn’t know where a fence is or a property line and he goes until he catches that game or bays that game,” Joslin said. “And sometimes that game is dangerous game, in such a means as feral hogs, and we take a chance on losing a dog and getting a dog killed.”
Joslin said there is also a strong chance the property owner will shoot the hunting dog simply because it is on their property. He said he knew of four dogs this year who had been killed by a landowner simply because they were there, which could have been prevented if the owner had been allowed to retrieve their animal.
Coal County Sheriff Bryan Jump said he had received several calls in the past asking for assistance retrieving hunting dogs or livestock from another person’s property, but he said law enforcement’s hands were tied if the landowner denies requests to enter the property.
Ed Barnes, president of Oklahoma Hound PAC, suggested that there might be some tools that could be used later as legal defense if the animal owner was charged. He mentioned several handheld devices on the market that track where a hunter has been, as well as their dog, could be used to show they are not maliciously entering the property.
“We’re doing our darndest to make sure our dogs don’t get to where they’re not supposed to be, but just the nature of the game that we chase and the properties getting cut up smaller and smaller, it’s a reality that we have to face today,” Barnes said.
The Oklahoma Cattleman’s Association Executive Vice President Michael Kelsey highlighted the current language dealing with astray animals, which are cattle or livestock that are not where they’re supposed to be.
He pointed out that since the animal belongs to someone else, property owners have a legal obligation to care for the animal until it can be returned to its owner in a timely fashion. While the simplest way to address this issue is between the owners, the sheriff could become involved if the landowner does not give permission for the animal owner to enter their property.
“The law is very, very specific on who can enter private property and the basis that basically you can’t do so without permission. And so that’s going to be tough, honestly, tough to change,” Kelsey said. “Our policy is very clear. We’re very supportive of that concept so we would be very strongly supportive of keeping that, but at the same time, we appreciate the opportunity to work with our friends who are trying to do it right.”
Kelsey reminded the committee of the importance of an existing section of statute that puts liability on the animal’s owner if the animal does any damage to the property.
Steve Thompson from Oklahoma Farm Bureau also voiced similar concerns.
“There are reasons for people to be there, but outside of some very specific and commonly accepted things, we think that you should take a very simple approach to the law when it comes to private property,” Thompson told lawmakers. “If it’s private property, you really need permission to be there, and as far as the state law goes, I think we create problems for ourselves if we overcomplicate it from there.”
Scott Blubaugh from Oklahoma Farmer and Rancher Insurance also spoke before the committee.
Grego said he plans to continue to meet with stakeholders from all sides as he considers legislation for the upcoming legislative session. The 58th Legislature begins Feb. 1, 2021.