What may I do with someone's property on my land?

Inspired by this pit thread, I’ve got a question.

Imagine that my neighbors, those jerks, have left some of their property in my yard. I’m annoyed at them. What are my legal (and, to make it interesting, ethical) options for dealing with their property?

Let’s consider three types of property; if there are other types to consider, let’s consider those as well:

  1. They were flying a kite, and when they were done, they left their cheap little kite in my yard.
  2. They drove home late and, for whatever reason, parked their car in my driveway.
  3. Being irresponsible cat owners, they let their cat roam into my yard.

For situation #3, for the present let’s not consider any animal cruelty or animal welfare laws: let’s strictly limit ourselves to considering property laws.


Ethically, you should be able to dispose of all the property.

It is also ethical to kill the cat by setting up traps or setting out poison just as it would be ethical to put tire deflating devices up to deter illegal entry.

Now legally, the law might fuck all these perfectly ethical, sane actions up. The law has a way of doing that.

1)The first few times the kite is left in my yard I return it with the request not to let it happen again. After that I trash it.

2)Any car parked in my driveway without my permission, or parked on the street blocking my driveway, will be towed ASAP

3)Cats coming into my yard will be trapped and taken to the animal shelter.

Just FTR:

I’d probably put the kite up unless it was torn up and see if anyone asks for it. I’d call the Police and see if they would get the car towed if I didn’t know who it belonged to. I would more than likely trap the cat and take it to the pound. I’m just not condemning more severe actions because it sets a bad principle.

Cool. Do you think that in any of these cases you might ethically take more severe actions? Do you think that in any of these cases you might legally take more severe actions?


  1. Kite would get held for a few days, returned with a warning if someone asks about it, then put in trash.

  2. I pay rent on my parking spot. However, I don’t always have a car to put in that spot. (looooong story) So what I’ve done is to print out a quick, but rather pointed, note explaining that the spot is mine by right, and since I pay rent for it, if the car remains there beyond what I consider a reasonable period, it will be towed. If I had a car to park there all the time, I wouldn’t be so patient, but there’d also be less temptation for people to use the spot, since now it does look unused, most of the time.

  3. Speaking from experience: Cat was dumped at an interesection near the house I was living it. It meowed the whole night through. That morning, got out my supersoaked, to make sure that cat had no where else it could think of going, then took it to the pound. If I knew who’s cat were roaming free in my lawn, I’d have taken the cat to them with a request that they not let the cat interrupt my sleep. If that advice hadn’t taken, I’d take the cat to the pound after a few iterations of being a good neighbor.

However, while I wouldn’t choose to destroy the cat, myself, I wouldn’t feel that the owners care all that much about their cat, either - if it kept going on.

One of my neighbors set off a bottle rocket that landed in my back yard while I was in it with my dogs. I confronted him on his land in a very threatening manner; basically screaming at him and warning him never to do it again.
A friend has a lovely flower garden around her front porch that the neighbor’s cats kept destroying. Her front porch always smelled of cat urine. The neighbers were spectacularly unconcerned. After a while I think I would get tired of trapping cats and taking them to the pound. I’m not sure what I would do, however.

It would be UNethical to do any of these things. Accidental trespass doesn’t give you the right to destroy other dudes property. Your property is not significantly harmed by said accidental trespass, thus ethicaly you should not retaliate with greater harm. In any case, petty vengance isn’t ethical under any situation.

  1. They were flying a kite, and when they were done, they left their cheap little kite in my yard.
    Unless there is someone immediately at hand to give the kite back to, in the garbage it goes with everything else people discard that ends up in my yard.

  2. They drove home late and, for whatever reason, parked their car in my driveway.

  3. Being irresponsible cat owners, they let their cat roam into my yard.
    Trapped and taken to the pound if they keep coming in. I’m not likely to kill an animal, but I don’t appreciate them in my yard.

Thank them for letting their cat hunt various vermin that might find their way onto your property. Are you aware the reason why cats were domesticated is that they are quite useful in getting rid of various rodents and such?

How about “asking them nicely to move their car and not do it again”? Then- towing, if that doesn’t work.

And along similar lines with a cat.

And what if I have domesticated “vermin” (say, rats) on my property?

What if I don’t have any vermin on my property?

What if a rare endangered specie of rodent happens to live on my property?

It is incorrect to speak of “someone’s property on my land”, which is the equivalent of saying “someone’s property on my property”. The three examples you give are possessions.

In that case surely you would have them in an enclosure that would protect them from predators, no?

Then a cat will help keep things that way. :slight_smile:

Extinction by predators is part of nature. The term for this is evolution.

If I understand you correctly, you are claiming that the term property should not be used for anything except land. If so, you are wrong. Land, together with buildings and other items permanently attached to it are real property. Movable items (including kites, vehicles and animals) are personal property.

1 Just drop over the fence.
2 If you share a common driveway, move.
3 Rat glue traps.

HOnestly, I don’t think this is relevant. If I want your cat hunting rodents on my land, I’ll tell you; until that point, you may assume that I do not. More pertinently, you may assume that the local laws regarding domesticated animals apply to your animals.

While I appreciate folks discussing what they’d personally do, I’m more curious about what folks think are the most severe options available in each case to them, legally and ethically. If you answer differently in cases A, B, and C, why is that?


Ethically, I feel you would be unreasonable to worry about the fact a cat roamed into your yard. This would be as silly as worry about a bird landing on your property and eating a worm. As for legally, that may depend on exactly where you live. My guess is almost anywhere that you could do whatever you want with the cat.

Suppose I lived somewhere that an endangered songbird nested? I think the effects of housecats on ecosystems is fairly well documented.

Would you guess the same thing about the kite and the car? If so, can you give me any links to cases in which someone hotwired a car that was parked in their driveway and got away with it? If not, can you describe what you see as the relevant legal difference between a car and a cat?

I’m aware that there’s a difference in value between a car and a cat. If folks see that difference as relevant, I’d appreciate their exploration of a borderline case–for example, imagining an item left on their property that had just barely enough value to prohibit its destruction. If a child drops her bicycle in your yard, may you destroy it as you would (legally) be able to destroy a cat?


Poisoning is probably not the best idea. In some states it is illegal. E.g., Maine

In other states, it might be legal, but you still have to pay for damages. E.g., Ohio