Recording of Identical Livestock Brands in Different Locations on An Animal Violated State Law Precl

Updated: Jun 30, 2020

Demonstration of a livestock brand on rawhide.  Image by Anne Worner
Demonstration of a livestock brand on rawhide. Image by Anne Worner

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Although Maryland has no law on branding animals, other states, many in the western part of the United States, often do. Recently, the Supreme Court of Arizona reversed the Court of Appeals of Arizona’s decision involving the state’s brand law. I wrote earlier about that decision here.

The case involves Eureka Springs, a California operation, seeking to relocate to Arizona. Eureka Springs used the bar-seven brand on the left rib. Stambaugh, an Arizona livestock owner, had already registered the bar-seven brand and used the brand on the left hip. The Arizona state department of agriculture allowed Eureka Springs to register the brand in the state, but Stambaugh filed a protest. The state supreme court held that the state’s branding law does not allow two of the same brands to be filed in Arizona, regardless of location on an animal.

Arizona Branding Law

Arizona’s branding law states, “No two brands of the same design or figure shall be adopted or recorded, but the associate director may, in his discretion, reject and refuse to record a brand or mark similar to or conflicting with a previously adopted and recorded brand or mark” (§ 3-1261(B)). The court of appeals found this language ambiguous and held it was within the department’s discretion to approve a similar brand when used in a different location on the animal.

Arizona Supreme Court’s Decision

In the recent decision, the state’s supreme court finds that the language of (B) is unambiguous and does not include a reference to location of the brand. The court first looks at the language in § 3-1261(B) and determines that “design or figure” is not defined. Looking at dictionaries, the common definitions of both words (design and figures) did not include location as a part of the definition.

Branding livestock by Colin Brown
Branding livestock by Colin Brown

The court next turns to the branding law as a whole to determine if subsection (B) is subject to more than one reasonable interpretation. Only one reasonable interpretation of (B) is acceptable based on a reading of the entire branding law as a whole. Subsection (G) requires that all registered brands regardless of locatio