Janesville67.2°

Failure to yield ... to a holstein?

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GINA R. HEINE
December 15, 2007

It was dark and late the night the cows got out.


The car’s downfall was the sunroof. Driving through the farming country of northwestern Green County, the culprit was an open or downed fence.


It’s been a few years since the incident, so Green County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Jeff Skatrud can laugh about it now.


“I remember it wasn’t humorous for the people involved,” he said.


The car collided with a cow or a heifer—Skatrud can’t remember anymore.


“It was a black and white,” he said.


The animal rolled over the top of the car, relieving itself inside the car.


After completing its business, the animal walked off into the pasture seemingly fine, “but they don’t tell you where they hurt,” Skatrud said.


The car’s occupants were not injured, “but they were soiled,” Skatrud recalls. And the vehicle suffered heavy damage.


Loose cattle are a frequent occurrence in farm country, and the unexpected obstacles occasionally can cause a collision, Skatrud said.


“It would be more regular that they got into somebody’s crop land or even their yard and tore it up,” he said.


In a 12-month period starting Dec. 1, 2006, the Green County Sheriff’s Department logged 126 loose livestock reports.


Rock County Sheriff’s Lt. Gary Groelle said it’s not unusual for his department to receive such complaints, and driving on rural roads can be very dangerous.


“This is another reason to be more aware of circumstances out in the country,” he said. “There’s animals on the highways from time to time, there’s farm equipment, there’s more to be aware of in that regard in the country than the city. There’s more unusual circumstances that you wouldn’t expect unless you’re born and raised in the county.”


So how do the cattle enjoy more area to roam, and what are the consequences?


In most cases, cattle find a way to sneak through holes in fencing or the fencing just breaks down, leaving an avenue for escape, Groelle said. Most of the time, landowners don’t even know about the problem.


Sometimes an unreported accident damages a fence or something spooks an animal, causing it to try an escape, Skatrud said.


“There’s a variety of things,” he said.


The animal owners are responsible for the condition of their fence and location of their animals and can be ticketed for violations, Skatrud and Groelle said.


Violators of a Green County ordinance of an “animal being a public nuisance” can be ticketed with a $249 fine. In Rock County, a state statute prohibiting livestock on highways can lead to fines up to $200, Groelle said.


But officials say they work with the animal owners and don’t automatically ticket them. Habitual offenders, however, may see penalties, they said.


Colliding with a 1,000 to 2,000 pound animal can cause extensive damage to a vehicle, Skatrud said.


“Insurance companies deal with it, but the owner of the animals is ultimately responsible,” he said. “It’s their obligation to keep them off the road.”



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