Do you have a right to detain livestock if they injure you?

It may be a little far-fetched to imagine, but it can happen. You may be minding your own business on private or public New Mexico land only for a horse, cow, even a duck or chicken to injure you with a stray kick, flapping wings or a stabbing beak. Someone's livestock has run out of control, and you have just been the victim of an animal attack. The question is, do you have the right to detain that livestock until their owners can claim them and be held accountable for your injuries or damages to your personal property?

The answer, in short, is yes. According to New Mexico state law, you have the right to hold the trespassing livestock whether they have trespassed on your property or your person. In this case the hold can even be extended to distraining the livestock. Distraining refers to seizing property as collateral against money or damages owed, and you are legally within your rights to hold another person's livestock until such point that the livestock owner compensates for injuries or damages to your satisfaction.

Whether or not you would want to when it comes to properly housing and feeding the livestock under detention is another matter. Sheep, cattle and horses require quite a bit of care, as do many smaller animals, and if the animals fall into poor health while in your possession then the loss of value inherent in the livestock may impact a case for damages owed.

This information is provided for reference purposes only, and does not constitute actionable legal advice.

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