Fences can cause issues — but there’s an act for that

There are at least four provincial acts which deal with fencing matters such as strays, maintenance, and location

The Stray Animals Act, Line Fence Act, Public Lands Act, and Surveys Act all affect how farmland fencing issues are handled in Alberta.

“Under the Stray Animals Act, a landowner is responsible for keeping his livestock properly fenced and contained,” said Jeana Schuurman of the Farmers’ Advocate Office. “If damage is caused by cattle trespassing onto another property, the owner of the cattle is responsible for the damage.”

If cattle escape, one option is to call Livestock Identification Services at 1-866-509-2088, which can capture and confine the livestock.

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A landowner’s obligations under the Line Fence Act are closely tied with responsibilities under the Stray Animals Act.

“The basic principle of the Line Fence Act is that if both landowners benefit from the fence, they should share the costs, which include the costs for erection, maintenance, and repair of the fence,” said Schuurman. “In this legislation, benefit is determined by having livestock on the land. If one landowner has needs above and beyond what would be normal, they’re responsible for the additional cost. Many people also don’t realize that if a tree falls and damages a fence, the owner of the property where the tree is located is responsible for the fence repairs.”

Under the Public Lands Act, all water in Alberta is owned by the Crown, even if it is located on private land.

“A landowner may use the water for livestock, but should keep in mind the obligation to prevent animals from straying under the Stray Animals Act,” said Schuurman. “Fencing near water has to strike the balance of confining the livestock and not violating the federal Navigation Protect Act, which stipulates that ‘works’ (including fences) cannot be constructed in a water body.”

Under the Surveys Act, surveys can be helpful if there is a dispute over the location of a fence. “Some older fences can be off the property lines due to old technologies for surveying, or a desire to avoid bush or treed areas.”

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry’s inspection and investigation unit, which deals with compliance issues and resolves disputes regarding the Line Fence Act, can be contacted directly at 403-755-1474. The Line Fence Act also provides the option of pursuing a resolution through arbitration, which is faster than the courts and produces a binding decision.

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