As of May 2016, 19 Missouri counties had opted into the optional county fencing statute [Section 272.210 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri (RSMO) fencing statute]. These counties are Bates, Cedar, Clinton, Daviess, Gentry, Grundy, Harrison, Knox, Linn, Macon, Mercer, Newton, Putnam, Schuyler, Scotland, Shelby, Sullivan, St. Clair and Worth.

So, what are the basic differences between the general and optional fencing statutes?

Forced contribution and maintenance

If either neighboring landowner needs a division fence, the neighbor has to pay for half the cost of the lawful fence (different definition in optional counties) and maintain half (Section 272.235 RSMO).

Lawful fence

A lawful fence is defined basically as one equivalent to a fence of four barbed wires supported by posts not more than 12 feet apart, or 15 feet apart with one stay. If either neighbor wants a more costly fence, then he will have to build it and pay for it (Section  272.210.1 RSMO).

No right-hand rule

The optional county fence statutes make no mention of any right-hand rule. Each neighbor is to build and to maintain half." Disputes are to be taken to the associate circuit court, which appoints three fence viewers to report back to the court (Section 272.240 RSMO).

Actual damages

If your livestock trespass through your portion of the division fence and it was in need of repair, then you may be liable for the actual damages (not double damages) caused to your neighbor’s crops or livestock. (Section 272.230 RSMO).

It is important to note that neighbors are still free to make a fencing agreement that is different from these statutory provisions Just be sure it is in writing, signed, and recorded properly (Section 272.235 RSMO). If you do deviate from these statutory provisions it is best to have an attorney draw up a legal document.

More information can be found in MU Extension publication G810, Missouri Fencing and Boundary Laws. Do not rely upon this article series or G810 for legal advice. This information is a general statement of the law. Direct your questions to an attorney. Your attorney can get relevant facts and act on them in your best interest.