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MU Extension program untangles state's fence laws


Linda Geist
University of Missouri Extension
Phone: 573-882-9185

Published: Friday, Feb. 7, 2014

Story source:

Joe Koenen, 660-947-2705

COLUMBIA, Mo.–University of Missouri Extension specialists will discuss the state’s complicated fence laws at locations across the state.

The first session will be held on Thursday, Feb. 27, in Atchison, Bates and Nodaway counties. A second meeting will be held Tuesday, March 11, in Cape Girardeau, Douglas, Johnson, Lafayette, Linn, Pike, Schuyler and Shelby counties. Sessions are 6:30-9 p.m.

“Missouri continues to have a very complicated fence law, in large part due to the fact that two separate laws cover the state depending on the county that your land is in,” said Joe Koenen, MU Extension agricultural business specialist. “Another problem is that both laws are subject to interpretation and can be a little different, depending on the county you’re in.”

Under the state law, owners are required to build a fence only if they own livestock. If both owners have livestock, they are to meet within a “reasonable” time to build or repair the boundary fence.

However, 18 counties in the state, mostly in northern Missouri, have a local option law. Under the Optional Fence and Enclosure Act, both landowners can be required to pay half the cost of a fence if one owner has a “need” for a boundary fence.

Words like “reasonable” and “need” are subject to interpretation and make it important for landowners to have an understanding of the laws, Koenen said.

Under the general law, there is no legal recourse if one landowner refuses to build his or her portion of the fence. Under the option law, the judge decides how to enforce the law.

Laws differ in many ways, including type of fencing materials and spacing. At the sessions, MU specialists will compare differences and provide information on animal trespassing and liability.

Koenen has presented programs on the fence law for more than 20 years throughout the state. The program will be presented to multiple locations via live video at county extension offices. Attendees can ask questions as county specialists give information.

There is a $10 fee to cover the program and materials. Pre-registration is recommended, as space is limited.

For registration and additional information, contact Koenen at or 660-947-2705.

The MU Extension publication “Missouri's Fencing and Boundary Laws: Frequently Asked Questions” (G811) is available for free download at