Electric fence laws

Written by lynne murray
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Electric fence laws
Zoning laws often require warning signs on electric fences. (Danger of Death Sign image by Hedgehog from Fotolia.com)

Local zoning laws govern electric fencing and usually concern the location of fences near roadways or the property of other residents and the placement of warning signs. Deaths from electric fences without a pulsing regulator have resulted in criminal prosecution.

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The 1950s saw the widespread use of electric fences replacing barbed wire in rural areas as a means of containing livestock.


Electric fences consist of lightweight steel wire or synthetic web or rope with wire woven through, secured to posts with porcelain or plastic insulators. Every second or so, a fence-charging unit called a regulator pulses electricity through the wire, giving a brief, harmless but memorable shock to animals who touch it, teaching them to stay away.

Zoning Laws

Those planning to set up electric fences need to check local zoning ordinances with the city or county clerk in suburban areas or in rural areas, the county extension office.


Regulations to protect the public may include: restrictions on electric fences in suburban areas and near roadways, and requirements for multiple warning signs to be placed at eye-level.


Business or commercial properties using electric fences for security need to provide access for firefighters, police and paramedics to enter the fence perimeter in an emergency.


Electric fences incorrectly installed without a pulsating regulator have led to fatalities and criminal prosecutions as in the 1988 death of an elderly woman in Maryland that resulted in manslaughter charges, and the 2008 death of a six-year-old girl in Texas where the fence owner pleaded guilty to negligent homicide.

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