|Livestock blamed for accidents near Ridgeway|
|Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor|
Oct. 18, 2005 -- Sheriff's deputies, paramedics, state troopers and wrecker operators were kept busy just before 9 p.m. Monday when a herd of cattle got into traffic on State Highway 11 near Ridgeway.
As many as five separate wrecks involving cattle and cars were reported in rapid sequence, according to Sheriff Butch Adams.
�Last night they had one [accident] -- it was not one, it was a sequence,� the sheriff said. �They had some cows out and it ended up being about five wrecks out of that one group of cows.�
Wreckage and debris all but completely closed the highway, and traffic headed toward Sulphur Springs was detoured south to Interstate 30 for about an hour.
Of the five autos involved, at least three were so heavily damaged that they had to be hauled, rather than towed, away.
Investigators were still trying to identify the owner of the livestock Tuesday morning.
There were no serious injuries.
Deputies are dispatched to calls of cows out on the road on an almost daily basis.
�That is one of the things that takes deputies away from their other duties,� Adams said. �In the last seven months, we have had a large number of calls, and it is hard to answer those calls when you are busy lassoing cows.�
The sheriff blamed much of the problem on absentee livestock owners.
�A lot of times we will have people that live out of the county that put their cows out in their pastures and come in once every week or two and check on them,� the sheriff said. �When a fence gets old and falls, the cows get out and they get out.�
The sheriff said that his communications officers attempt to keep a list of livestock owners, whose animals are repeat offenders.
�When we have numerous calls on the same people or cows, that every time you turn around you are having to go back out there, it really becomes a problem,� he said. �If it keeps on being a problem, we can issue citations.�
Issuing citations however, could make the problem worse rather than solving it. Rather than spending time rebuilding fences, the stock owner must spend time in court and pay a fine.
�That is not our purpose,� the sheriff said. �We want them to try to fix their fence or corral or whatever they have got. Our main goal is to get them to fix the problem so we will not have to come back.�
Hopkins County voters, in the early 1900s, voted to end the county's status as an “Open Range” county in which livestock could roam free.
In that election, a majority of county voters made it a requirement that animals not be allowed to roam free, according to attorney Carl Bryan.
�What that means is the livestock owner has an obligation to keep those animals penned up,� Bryan said. �They are liable if they let the cattle get out � it is a serious deal.�
While damages arising from accidents involving the stray animals have civil remedies, Bryan said there is a potential for criminal charges if the livestock continually are getting out and people are injured.