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Guest Editorial 
This page was last updated on January 06, 2009 .

Arizonaís open range laws are profitable for ranchers, but dangerous for property owners.
by: Danny Fite, posted 8/30/03 (originally submitted to Eastern Arizona Courier)

In 1993 I was arrested and charged with the killing of livestock. One of many, very similar to several people who are forced to submit to laws that violates a persons private property rights, as well as a persons right to protect themselves from harm and physical injury.

Having lived East of Snowflake, in the then not very populated area of Cedar hills (or the then known name of The Ranch of the Golden Horse area) for the better part of 14 years, I have learned the dangers of living around cattle, which LEGALLY roam free. The free part only applies to the irresponsible ranchers who own the cattle. It is certainly not free for the owners of purchased land. My family and I have had to repeatedly repair fences around our property, Replant gardens destroyed or eaten by these unsupervised creatures, and once even had to replace 15 feet of Television cable eaten by one single cow. How do I know it was a cow? I saw it chewing with 8 inches of cable still hanging from its mouth. Iíll bet that would have been one tough cud to chew. It bewilders me that a rancher can not feed his cattle well enough but that one must come through the fence or over a cattle guard to eat 15 feet of coax. But the expenses are far greater than these typical scenarios.

In 1993 while on the property of a girlfriend I was confronted with a large danger. A 950 lb. Bull charging directly at me after attempts to herd around 12 cows off the property. Yes, the gate was left open, but I still donít feel that gives a creature of that magnitude the justification to try and charge me down. I say try because I didnít allow it to succeed. I shot at it. After three attempts from a 41 magnum it finally ran in a different direction, away from me, and back onto the property. I was not aware of its death, until it was found three days latter by my girlfriends baby sitter, who was very close with the owner of the cow, Ira Willis. To make a long story short, I was to blame. To make a long story sad, is that I would still be to blame if the cow had accomplished its initial attack.

I was charged with the felony shooting of livestock. But do to many Sheriffs officers mistakes, they were forced to drop the charges to a misdemeanor. I had to pay for the cow. But, not just one, the ONE that I shot, but three. Yes, Arizonaís treble damage law, $2500.00. Thatís why ranchers really like the killing of their cows. It profits them three fold, and they donít even have to clean up the carcass. The livestock inspector, and the Navajo county Sheriffs office does everything for them. It really does not even matter how the cow, or why the cow was killed. Whether by an unsuspecting motorist who feels that fences really keep cows off the road, or by self defense. Either way you are at fault by the law. Innocent citizen 0, irresponsible rancher 2500. You lose.

With the population in the area, now more than tripled since 1993, the dangers present are even far greater. Reforms to these laws are beyond compromise. They MUST be changed. This is no longer the wild wild west, itís a community with thousands of people and hundreds of children. I have heard the saying , rules are meant to be broken, yet I believe some laws are meant to be broken, changed, modified and reformed. Especially the open range laws. We need to protect people, not cows. Itís sad when here in America, the land of the free, a place where our money states in God we trust, cows have more rights through dumb laws and irresponsible ranchers than humans do. Maybe our money should read ďIn Cows we Trust.Ē

Danny Fite