Bill sets new penalties for owners of stray livestock
By MITCH LIES
SALEM -- The Oregon Senate has passed a bill that establishes new penalties for owners of certain stray livestock and adds bison to the list of animals covered under the law.
House Bill 2025 stipulates that owners of estray cattle, equine and bison that knowingly or recklessly allow the livestock to run at large are subject of fines of up to $6,250 and a year in jail.
A second level of penalty calls for law enforcement to issue a maximum $1,000 fine for estray livestock owners that don't act intentionally but have one or more repeat violations.
A first time violator of the statute, under the bill, would be subject to a $60 fine.
Current state law stipulates that owners of estray cattle and equine can be charged with an unclassified misdemeanor.
The provision has resulted in some livestock owners being subject to criminal misdemeanor charges for unintentionally allowing livestock to run at large, said Rodger Huffman, state brand inspector and a former livestock division administrator for the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
When it comes to bison, another issue presents itself.
Bison currently aren't covered under the state's livestock-at-large statute, which has resulted in counties taking a variety of approaches to dealing with escaped bison, Huffman said.
Adding bison to the statute addresses what Huffman said is a sporadic, but potentially severe, problem: When bison get loose, they tend to cause a lot of damage to fences, barns and other structures, Huffman said.
The animals, which can tip the scales at 2,000 pounds, also are hard to corral, Huffman said.
The bill was brought forward by Sen. Betsy Close, R-Albany, at the request of Linn County commissioners.
Commissioner John Lindsey said the board requested the bill "because of a couple of incidences" in recent years of bison escaping and causing damage to neighboring properties.
In at least one case, he said, the bison owner was lackadaisical in attempting to recapture the animals.
"(HB2025) is just another tool (for controlling bison)," he said.
The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 30-0.
It previously passed the House 60-0.
The bill now goes back to the House for concurrence of amendments.