What is an estray ordinance?

The California Food and Agriculture Code allows the Board of Supervisors to declare certain portions of the county as being devoted chiefly to grazing.  Areas so designated are generally referred to as “Open Range.”  Kern County established an Estray Ordinance in 1942.

In such areas, a person may not “take up” any estray (stray) animal found on their property nor will they have a lien against the animal unless their property is surrounded by a good and substantial fence.  In areas not designated as “grazing areas,” a person finding any estray animal on their property (whether fenced or not) may seize the animal and have a lien on the animal for all expenses involved in seizing, keeping, and caring for the animal.  In other words, in an “Open Range,” a person must fence animals off their property if they do not want them on their property, while in areas not “Open Range,” the animal owner must fence the animals in or run they risk of having those animals “taken up” as estrays.

The areas of the county devoted chiefly to grazing are presently described in Chapter 7.16 of the Kern County Ordinance Code.  The areas are identified as either open range (mostly eastern half of Kern County) or closed range.