South Dakota Agricultural Law - State Fencing Law

As a farming and ranching state, South Dakota has numerous agricultural-related laws. One particularly interesting area of agricultural law is entitled “Partition Fences” and outlines South Dakota’s rules for the who, what, when, where, and why of constructing suitable fences between landowners. Here’s a few of the key points:

  • South Dakota law requires that adjoining landowners each be responsible for one-half of the construction and costs of a suitable fence between their respective pieces of property.
  • Keeping things clear and simple, the law even outlines what half of the fence each landowner is responsible for - “each owner of adjoining lands shall build that half of the fence which shall be upon his right hand when he stands upon his own land and faces the line upon which the proposed fence is to be built.”
  • Though owners can agree to any type of fence that they both find suitable, state law sets out the specifics of what type of fence is required if neighbors are unable to come to a mutual understanding.
  • The laws include specifications for wooden post fences, metal post fences, or even concrete post fences.
  • The building specifications lay out how far apart the posts should be, how deep in the ground the posts must be buried, and that they should braced at ends, corners, and gates.
  • Finally, the law states that fences should have 4 barbed wire strands spaced 10 inches apart from one another.

Interestingly, the law includes a specific provision stating that a person cannot be required to build a fence if the ground is frozen.

You should also be aware that “[a]ny person who shall intentionally open, or leave open, let down, throw down, tear down, or prostrate any fence, gate, or bars, legally constructed, located, and lawfully maintained, which encloses a meadow, pasture, livestock range, or private other inclosure, is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.” In case you were wondering, the penalty for a Class 2 misdemeanor in South Dakota is punishable by 30 days in the county jail, a $500 fine, or both. That’s some serious fencing business!