Fence law hearing is March 13

Published 12:13 pm Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Charlotte County Board of Supervisors has scheduled a public hearing to discuss a proposed fence law prohibiting the running of livestock at large and farmers are making their concerns known about the change.

According to cow and calf operator Robbie Tate, if the proposed ordinance is adopted, it will hurt the agriculture industry across the county.

“The boundary line of each lot or tract of land in the county is declared and established to be a lawful fence as to any livestock identified …,” the proposed ordinance states.

Animals identified as livestock include cattle, horses, mules, goats, sheep, swine, donkeys, alpaca, llamas and any other four-legged or hooved animal, according to the proposed ordinance.

Additionally, the proposed ordinance indicated it would be unlawful for livestock owners to allow the animals to run beyond the limits of their property lines.

Tate said with the way he understands the ordinance, there is a possibility that he could be charged with a felony if three offenses are accrued under the proposed ordinance.

“It would hold me accountable … It’s really hard to keep a calf in,” said Tate.

The possibility of the new ordinance was first discussed at a November meeting of the board of supervisors when Red House/Cullen Supervisor Dr. Nancy Carwile said Eureka Elementary School had a situation where cattle and sheep were discovered on the playground.

It was at the suggestion of County Seat Supervisor Gary Walker that the board gather public comment before proceeding with the ordinance. 

At a January board of supervisors’ meeting, Saxe resident George Toombs said, “I understand the county is considering a proposal to change, at the local level, the statute that Virginia has on fencing.”

He’s asked the county to consider leaving the statute the same way the Code of Virginia defines it.

Charlotte currently is an open designation county, which means livestock legally may roam freely.

“One of the most disturbing things to me about the proposal is the argument has been raised that people should be responsible for their animals … This proposal, I believe, purposely leaves out dogs,” Toombs said. “If we’re going to argue that residents of this county should be responsible, and we’re going to have a proposal, the proposal needs to be across the board. It needs to have dogs included. It needs to be all owned animals regardless of what they are.”

Toombs said he believes the liability insurance against farmers will increase if the change is made.

Members of the Charlotte County Cattleman’s Association will have a dinner meeting Tuesday at the FFF Hunting Preserve Lodge in Keysville to discuss how the proposed ordinance will affect producers.

Legal counsel will be present, organizers say.

“The goal would be to look at it from a couple of angles,” said association member Clark Poindexter. He said the meeting will help inform those in the agriculture industry and weigh both sides of the argument.

Additionally, Poindexter said, the proposed ordinance is an example of a few people violating a good neighbor policy with consequence to other farmers.

The public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for March 13 at 6 p.m. It will be held in the board of supervisor’s meeting room at the Charlotte County Administration Office in Charlotte Court House.