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 the risk of having those animals “taken up” as estray.

The area of the County devoted chiefly to grazing are presently described in Chapter 7.16 of the Kern County Ordinance Code. The areas comprise five (5) parcels and make up roughly the eastern half of the County.


There is a formal application for amending the estray ordinance. Applicants wishing to amend the ordinance should submit a completed application to the Kern County Planning and Natural Resources Department with the appropriate filing fee. A legal description of the property involved in the request is required. It is possible to request that open range be closed or that closed range be opened. If more than one (1) property owner is involved, the Department will require letters of authorization.

  • Favorable consideration will be given to requests for closed range where a substantial majority of affected property owners are in favor of the closed range, provided the size of the area is deemed reasonable and land use factors are favorable. Proof of public support for a closed range proposal must be furnished by sponsors of the proposal.

Because an amendment to the estray ordinance is a project, as defined by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), submittal of certain environmental information may be required. In order to determine whether or not an environmental document will be required, the applicant may request an appointment to meet with a member of the Planning Staff; otherwise this determination will be made when a review of the request is made.


On receipt of a request to amend the estray ordinance, a file is made and the request is assigned to a planner for processing. A determination is made whether or not the request will require an environmental document. If a document is necessary, the procedure is that noted in the brochure describing the environmental process. The request is brought before the Board of Supervisors at a public hearing.


Before the request is accepted for processing, a preliminary review is performed by staff to make sure all the necessary information and fees have been submitted. Applicants should allow approximately two (2) weeks for the preliminary review. Once accepted as complete, the processing time for a request to amend the estray ordinance varies. A straightforward, non controversial request, not requiring an environmental document, could be heard before the Board of Supervisors in six (6) to eight (8) weeks. A request requiring a Negative Declaration could be brought before the Board in four (4) to five (5) months. Should a request necessitate an Environmental Impact Report, the applicant should allow twelve (12) to eighteen (18) months for processing.


After a decision is made by the Board of Supervisors to amend the estray ordinance, the amendment does not become effective for thirty (30) days. After the thirty (30) days, the new set of regulations will apply to the property as appropriate. The official maps, which show the areas subject to the estray ordinance, are amended to reflect the Board’s action.

Staff is available to answer any questions you may have regarding the estray ordinance at (661) 862-8600.

FORM 726 (3/2017)

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