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Ask a Trooper: Animals at large

Question: My neighbor has cattle and horses, and it seems like they are always getting out of the fences and many times out onto the road. In fact, a couple of times, he has had them hit by cars. Isn’t there some kind of law requiring animals to be kept a little more secure than that? Can he get into trouble with the law or get sued?

Answer: Yes, there are laws, and yes, a person could get into trouble. I am sure a person also could get sued civilly by someone who was injured or sustained loss because of an incident like this. M.S.S. 346.16 says that: “It shall be unlawful for any owner or any person having the control of any such animal to permit the same to run at large in the state.” There are other laws that could apply, but that one seems to fit what you are talking about more directly.

During my many years as a State Patrol trooper, I have seen a lot of farm animals on the roadway, and many people have been seriously injured or killed hitting them. Some fences get in disarray and ill repair to the point that the animals get out once in a while. We are always getting calls on this, many times in the middle of the night. As far as I know, most police agencies are good about helping get the animal off the roadway and to the rightful owner before the animal(s) get hit. Also, they usually do this without taking enforcement action. However, I believe that repeated offenses would surely warrant enforcement action, especially if an officer knows there is a history of animals (being at large) involving the same farm animal owner.

We all need to work together and do our part to prevent these needless tragedies and make our roadways safer for everyone. If anyone reading this knows of this happening, you need to let law enforcement know as soon as possible, so they can at least talk with the owner. They probably already know about it if it’s a chronic issue in that location. All animal fencing should be kept in adequate condition and maintained as often as necessary. Thanks for asking.

If you have any questions for future columns concerning motor vehicle traffic in Minnesota, please send your questions to: “ASK A TROOPER” c/o Sgt. Curt S. Mowers, Minnesota State Patrol, 7694 Industrial Park Road, Suite 2 Baxter, MN 6425 or email questions to with Ask a Trooper in the subject line. Questions are edited.