Straying livestock are causing havoc in Marion Township.
Larry Beckman, of 18448 Polk Ave., complained to the Plymouth County Supervisors April 22 that horses and cattle have been escaping through a fence along a pasture at 18507 Polk Ave. causing destruction of his property.
"Who knows what's going to happen," Beckman said. "We chase cows and horses home all the time."
Supervisor Don Kass said he had witnessed the problem and made a motion to declare the straying livestock as habitual trespassers. The supervisors unanimously approved the motion.
With the supervisor's approval, the Marion Township Trustees can begin to possibly take formal action to ensure the horses and cows stay inside the fence. That action could include requiring the livestock owner to construct a new fence per their requirements.
Beckman's said he has photographs and documentation of at least three times the livestock wandered onto his property within the last 12 months and caused damage.
Under a statute effective last year, that documentation is part of the requirement to declare the trespassing offense.
Andy Vaske, who owns the livestock and leases the pasture in question, said during a phone interview Wednesday that "animals get out no matter what humans build to keep them in." There is currently a fence around the property.
Vaske admits that his livestock have escaped and gotten into Beckman's crops.
"They went across the road and ate some corn," Vaske said. "They ate $600 worth of corn."
Beckman sued Vaske in small claims court and recouped that loss.
The statute states the trustees can be "fence viewers," who would be in charge of any action taken against Vaske, or name someone for that job. Fence viewers can set a hearing, provide notice to affected parties, inspect the property and determine the type of fence if one is needed.
"They do what they need to do to make a determination of what the use of the property is and what kind of fence needs to be built," said Plymouth County Attorney Darin Raymond.
Depending on their findings, the fence viewers could require Vaske to construct a fence per their specifications within a designated time frame. If he would fail to do that, they could hire a contractor to build the fence and send the bill to Vaske.
Vaske said that won't be necessary.
"I'm going to put new fence in shortly as soon as the spring work is over," he said. He's going to do it himself. "That way I'll know it's done right," he said.
Should the fence viewers have to hire contractor to build the fence and Vaske refuse to pay for it, those costs and any other expenses could be assessed on his property taxes, Raymond said.
Vaske said he hopes the law will be enforced for everyone and not just certain people as he has witnessed other problems in the area.
Before declaring the problem as habitual trespassing, the supervisors discussed previous complaints that were handled by the sheriff's department for the same problem. They also had concerns for the public should the animals wander into oncoming traffic.