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

For a factual cite about killng cats in the context of this thread:


Thus, if you live near Quapaw, Okla., you might end up in court defending yourself of a crime if you kill the cat in question. I wouldn’t be surprised that there are a number of areas where the law protect cats. Imagine some town where all the members of the city counsel are cat lovers?

If I may repeat:

Trust me, I’m well aware of animal cruelty laws; I give a presentation to several classes of high-school students every year on just this subject :). If we need, to, later in the thread I can give all kinds of interesting cites on folks convicted of felony animal cruelty for killing a neighbor’s cat.

But for now, I’d like to explore simply the legal and ethical ramifications of destroying someone else’s property, setting aside the issue of whether that property is a living creature with direct legal protection.


The legal part gets a little complicated because it depends, in part on whether the property is abandoned or lost. Here is a nice summary of a very general rule, however:

(Footnote omitted; Emphasis added.)


Very interesting, gfactor: thanks!

Am I right in thinking, therefore, that in all cases, the intentional destruction of the property would be illegal? Do you know whether, furthermore, that destruction would violate civil or criminal laws?


Oh, dear lord. May I just say what an incredibly stupid general rule that is, in my opinion. What is to prevent a man from dumping things on his neighbors so that they will have to care for them while he has not a care in the world? What’s to prevent him from tossing a damaged watch into his neighbor’s yard, and then claiming that it was in good condition before they destroyed it?

In the first case, Liberal, I suspect there are penalties for dumping property on someone else’s land. If I let my cat roam, for example, you may rightly call animal control on me, and I’ll end up paying fines. If I park my car in your driveway, you may rightly have me towed, and I’ll end up paying ot get my car back. If I litter in your yard, you may rightly call the cops, and I’ll get a ticket for littering.

In the second case, if I claim the watch was in good condition before you destroyed it, the onus is on me to prove that you destroyed it. In the examples I gave with the car and the cat, it’d be pretty easy for me to prove, unless you’re a clever criminal: the smashed glass on the ground around the windows, or the tins of poisoned cat food sitting out around your house.

Is it your position, then, that whatever the legal requirements, in all three cases I the land owner may do whatever I want with your property if it ends up on mine for whatever reason? Could you explore some borderline cases to delineate what rule you’d like to see govern such circumstances? (e.g., if I invite you to my house, and you accidentally leave your wallet behind, may I claim ownership of it?)


To extend the hypothetical a bit further - considering the way that the Endangered Species Act and other related laws have been used to make the property owner completely responsible for any harm that comes to such endangered species on the property, I wonder if the homeowner might have a demonstrated financial and legal obligation to take any and all reasonable efforts to prevent predation by feral or domestic animals?

And for a general case, I believe that if the owner of the cat is known - that lethal measures are going too far. However, for an animal that can be reasonably suspected to be feral - I believe that any measures, up to lethal ones, are ethical.

It is indeed a stupid law, but not unique. My parents were landlords in Saskatchewan for a long time, and they ran into property laws that required them to hold their tenants’ property for them for an extensive length of time (I believe it was a full year) after they abandoned the rental unit (almost universally with rent owing) in case the tenants decided to come back and claim it. That truly is worthy of a :rolleyes: .

Dr.Deth, my previous post was answering the conditions set out by the OP - what legal actions I would take in those three situations.

OK. However, please note that some of the laws against killing a neighbor’s cat really aren’t animal cruelty ones. I don’t see how shooting a wild skunk on your land is any less cruel to animals than shooting a neighbor’s pet cat. Any law that would permit killing wild skunks but not your neighbor’s kitty cat aren’t predicated on animal cruelty, but instead the fact the animal is someone’s pet.

As I remember way back when in Iowa, if someone’s cows, for example, wandered into your pasture and started eating your grass you penned them up. Then you advertised in an official newspaper of record. often the one in the County Seat, that you had these cows and that the owner could have them back by paying for the ad. Possibly you could also charge a fee for their keep while you had them. After a certain length of time if they were not claimed you could dispose of them as you saw fit.

gfactor, I’m not sure that applies here. I’m not sure that the owner of land would be considered a “finder” in this sense if other people left their stuff on the owner’s land. In that case, wouldn’t the stuff be a common nuisance, which the owner can abate?

Sure, but one man’s littering is another man’s “where the hell did I leave my stuff?”. What if your car gets damaged by the tow truck? As I read the general rule, it’s my fault.

Not according to that general rule. You just say, “Hey! I lost that thing. How did you get ahold of it!?”

I differentiate between morality (that which is between a man and his God or conscience) and ethics (that which is between a man and his fellow man). It is a good moral exercise, in my opinion, to return lost property if at all possible. But the ethical obligation of responsibility for property ought to rest with its owner. That’s my opinion.

I’d apply the Golden Rule: what would I want someone to do if I had committed these transgressions?

1- Knock on door. Ask if this is their kite. If they say yes, give it to them. If not, either throw away or use if you happen to like kites.

2- Knock on door. Ask if they would kindly move their car which was parked in your spot. If they do, say thank you. If not, call police to have it towed.

3- Knock on door. Ask if they are aware of local ordinances about cats being let outdoors. If cat comes around again, squirt it with a garden hose. Won’t hurt the cat, and it will soon learn to not come around anymore.

Key phrases: Knock on door. Ask.

Out of curiousity was this on or about July 4.

If so, I think your reaction was a bit extreme. How about a simple, “hey dude, you might want to launch those things in a field away from your neighbors”?

If not, maybe a “hey dude, how about waiting until July 4?”

If person reacts unreasonably to your polite requests then all bets are off.

Also, are you in a state where fireworks are legal? An unreasonable neighbor might need a visit from the local police.

But Lefty specified that the neighbor is a jerk and an annoyance. It may be dangerous to go up to his door. Suppose he shoots you for trespassing.

How would it be a common nuisance? A common nuisance is one that effects the public at large by endangering public health or saferty (simplified definition). The items discussed here bother nobody but the landowner.

In many cases the landowner can avoid taking possession of the item by taking advantage of the local lost item procedure, or calling the appropriate authorities (police to tow the car, animal authorities to retrieve the animal). Also, there may be self-defense or defense of property rights if the item is dangerous. We discussed this to some extent here. Finally, if it is reasonable to conclude that the property is abandoned, you can do whatever you want with it.

If he’s THAT nuts, then what’s he gonna do, when he finds you had his car towed and has to pay what, $150.00 to get it back? What’s he gonna do, when he finds his cat’s been ‘put down’ at the shelter? What’s he gonna do, when you keep tossing out his kids’ toys?

There’s a difference between an unthinking jerk, a bully and a guy who shoots you because you’re on his land, returning his kid’s toys. Knowing how to deal with them, depends on which type of person you’re dealing with.

A good fence, does wonders.

If this was an honest fear then I would phone him/her. Personally, I think calling to have your neighbor’s car towed when he would have moved it had he been asked is a bigger transgression than parking the car there in the first place.

Fireworks are illegal here, even on July 4.

It was not July 4.

A projectile with a pointed end and powered by gunpowder landed in my back yard, where it could have killed one of my dogs or seriously injured me. And you want me to ask him nicely not to do it anymore? He’s lucky I didn’t take his head off.

Cool. I think that I’ve just found the perfect place to park, throw away my garbage, and let my dog shit at. DrDeth’s front yard. Don’t even think of throwing any of it way, especially the dog shit and the garbage. You don’t have any right to throw it away.