Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 55.1. Property and Conveyances
Chapter 28. Trespasses; Fences

Article 2. What Constitutes Lawful Fence.

§ 55.1-2804. Description of lawful fence.

Every fence shall be deemed a lawful fence as to any domesticated livestock that could not creep through such fence, if it is:

1. At least five feet high, including, if the fence is on a mound, the mound to the bottom of the ditch;

2. Made of barbed wire, at least 42 inches high, consisting of at least four strands of barbed wire, firmly fixed to posts, trees, or other supports substantially set in the ground, spaced no farther than 12 feet apart unless a substantial stay or brace is installed halfway between such posts, trees, or other supports to which such wires are also fixed;

3. Made of boards, planks, or rails, at least 42 inches high, consisting of at least three boards firmly attached to posts, trees, or other supports substantially set in the ground;

4. At least three feet high, if such fence is within the limits of any town whose charter neither prescribes, nor gives to the town council power to prescribe, what shall constitute a lawful fence within such corporate limits; or

5. Any other fence, except as otherwise described in this section, if it is:

a. At least 42 inches high;

b. Constructed from materials sold for fencing or consisting of systems or devices based on technology generally accepted as appropriate for the confinement or restriction of domesticated livestock; and

c. Installed pursuant to generally acceptable standards so that applicable domesticated livestock cannot creep through the same.

A cattle guard reasonably sufficient to turn all kinds of livestock shall also be deemed a lawful fence as to any domesticated livestock.

Nothing contained in this section shall affect the right of any such town to regulate or forbid the running at large of cattle and other domestic animals within its corporate limits.

The Board of Agriculture and Consumer Services may adopt regulations regarding lawful fencing consistent with this section to provide greater specificity as to the requirements of lawful fencing. The absence of any such regulation shall not affect the validity or applicability of this section as it relates to what constitutes lawful fencing.

Code 1950, § 8-869; 1977, c. 624, § 55-299; 2007, c. 574; 2019, c. 712.

§ 55.1-2805. Proceeding to declare stream of water or canal a lawful fence.

A. The circuit court of any county, upon a petition of any owner or tenant of lands on any stream of water or canal, may declare and establish such stream or canal, or any part of either within the limits and jurisdiction of the county, a lawful fence as to any domesticated livestock. Notice of the application shall be given by posting a copy of the petition at the front door of the courthouse and at two or more public places at or near the stream or canal to which the petition applies, for 30 days, and by publishing such notice once a week for four successive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in such county. At or before the trial of the cause, any person interested may enter himself a defendant.

B. The court may, upon petition and notice of any person interested, revoke or alter any order made under subsection A, but such order shall not be made within one year from the date of the original and shall not take effect until six months after it is made.

Code 1950, §§ 8-870, 8-871; 1977, c. 624, §§ 55-300, 55-301; 2019, c. 712.

§ 55.1-2806. Boundary lines of certain low grounds on James River a lawful fence.

The owners and occupants of low grounds on either side of the James River in Albemarle, Buckingham, and Goochland Counties, enclosed by lawful fences on the back and hill lands, need not keep up any fence on the boundary lines running across the low grounds to the river, and such boundary lines shall be deemed a lawful fence, except where public roads cross the river or run parallel with its banks.

Code 1950, § 8-872; 1977, c. 624, § 55-302; 2019, c. 712.

§ 55.1-2807. Statutes declaring watercourses lawful fences continued.

All acts declaring any river, stream, or watercourse, or any part thereof, or any boundary in any county, a lawful fence, or authorizing any court so to declare the same, or enacting a special fence law for any county or any part thereof, and all acts relating to the making or repairing of division fences in any county or in any part thereof that may be in force on the day before the Code of 1887 took effect, shall continue in force.

Code 1950, § 8-873; 1977, c. 624, § 55-303; 2019, c. 712.