Understanding Agricultural Liability: Maryland Fencing Law
A fence is defined as “a barrier intended to prevent escape or intrusion or to mark a boundary; especially: such a barrier made of posts and wire or boards” (Merriam-Webster, 2012). In dealing with Maryland livestock producers, Maryland courts have adopted the traditional common law rule of “fence-in.”
The fence-in view prohibits unrestrained grazing and requires livestock owners to fence their stock in. Compare this to the view in many Western states. There, the fence-out view does not require livestock owners to keep stock fenced in, but does require those landowners who do not want livestock grazing on their property to construct a fence to keep unwanted livestock out. The fence-in rule places the burden of fence construction on the landowner with the grazing livestock. It can also force one landowner to pay the costs of erecting a fence, though there are ways that neighboring landowners can share in the costs of its construction.
This article limits its scope to Maryland law and does not attempt to include any relevant county regulations on fencing, except for Howard, Kent, and St. Mary’s Counties’ regulation; check your county’s regulations to determine if any are related to division fence requirements.