Senate Bill No. 527
(By Senators Williams and Miller)
[Introduced February 6, 2012; referred to the Committee on Agriculture; and then to the Committee on the Judiciary.]
A BILL to repeal §19-18-4, §19-18-5, §19-18-6, §19-18-7, §19-18-8, §19-18-9, §19-18-10, §19-18-11 and §19-18-12 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended; and to amend and reenact §19-18-1, §19-18-2 and §19-18-3 of said code, all relating to the general livestock trespass law; prohibiting livestock from trespassing; clarifying damages that may be recovered; permitting containment of livestock; requiring owner of trespassing livestock be notified; requiring containment costs be negotiated; permitting containment costs to be recovered in court; permitting the sheriff to take possession of unclaimed livestock; permitting unclaimed livestock be sold at auction; setting forth how the proceeds of a livestock sale shall be distributed; establishing misdemeanor penalties and fines; and permitting restitution.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That §19-18-4, §19-18-5, §19-18-6, §19-18-7, §19-18-8, §19-18-9, §19-18-10, §19-18-11 and §19-18-12 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be repealed; and that §19-18-1, §19-18-2 and §19-18-3 of said code be amended and reenacted, all to read as follows:
ARTICLE 18. GENERAL LIVESTOCK TRESPASS LAW.
§19-18-1. Livestock trespassing on property of another; damages for injuries to person or property; notice to livestock owner; containment of livestock; costs for containment.
(a) If livestock enters the property of another landowner without that landowner’s consent, the owner or manager of the livestock is liable for damages for personal injury or property loss in a civil action in magistrate or circuit court.
(b) The affected landowner must attempt to contact the owner or manager of the trespassing livestock within forty-eight hours of the trespass. If the owner or manager cannot be contacted within forty-eight hours, the landowner shall notify the county sheriff.
(c) The landowner may contain the trespassing livestock on his or her property, but is not required to do so. If the landowner is able to contact the owner or manager of the trespassing livestock pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, he or she shall also inform the owner or manager of the costs of containment.
(d) The owner or manager of the trespassing livestock and the landowner shall attempt to mutually agree on a fair cost for any containment. A fair cost for containment would be an amount in keeping with an amount allowed by the sheriff or the department for containing similar livestock. However, if the negotiation fails, or if the landowner is not otherwise reimbursed for the costs for containment, the landowner may seek monetary damages in a civil action for these costs in addition to damages to person or property.
§19-18-2. Unclaimed livestock; containment by sheriff; sheriff’s sale at public auction.
(a) If the owner or manager of trespassing livestock cannot be determined, or if the trespassing livestock has not recovered within ten days of notifying the owner or manager, the county sheriff shall take possession of the trespassing livestock.
(b) The county sheriff may return the livestock to its owner or manager and seek reimbursement for containment costs. However, if attempts to return the livestock to the owner or manager fail the sheriff may, after at least ten days notice has been given in an advertisement, sell the livestock to the highest bidder at a public livestock auction.
(c) The proceeds of the livestock sale shall be distributed in the following order: (1) Costs incident to the sale; (2) costs of containment by the sheriff and the landowner; (3) any remaining amount to the owner of the trespassing livestock; and (4) if the owner is unknown or does not claim the amount remaining within ninety days, that amount shall be deposited into the county treasury.
§19-18-3. Criminal penalties for trespassing livestock; restitution.
(a) While livestock may escape enclosures due to accident or unforeseen circumstances, it is unlawful for the owner or manager of livestock to negligently permit livestock to run at large and trespass on the property of other landowners.
(b) If livestock injures a person or destroys the property of another person while negligently trespassing, the owner or manager of the livestock shall be given an oral or written warning for the first offense. For a second offense within six months of the first, the owner or manager is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be fined not less than $50 nor more than $100. For a third or subsequent offense within six months of the second or subsequent offense, the owner or manager is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be fined not less than $100 nor more than $1,000. The court may also order restitution to the injured party for damages to persons and property and containment costs.
Note: The purpose of this bill is to revise the antiquated stock laws of West Virginia. The name has been updated to “General Livestock Trespass Law.” The bill clarifies damages for injury or loss to person or property from trespassing livestock and permits costs to be reimbursed for containment of livestock. The bill requires notification to the owner of trespassing livestock within forty-eight hours. The bill requires negotiating the costs of containment. The bill requires unclaimed livestock to be given to the sheriff for sale at a public livestock auction and the proceeds of the sale are distributed in a particular order. The bill clarifies misdemeanor penalties and fines for livestock that negligently trespass and injure persons or property. The bill also permits restitution.
§19-18-1, §19-18-2 and §19-18-3 have been completely rewritten; therefore, strike-throughs and underscoring have been omitted.