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Is an Electric Fence illegal?

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If you're lucky enough to live in the countryside, you may have your own land, animals or buildings outside your home.  Rural estates tend to be bigger than their urban counterparts, meaning there is a much larger area to secure and a different array of dangers to protect it from.  The go-to security measure in these situations is often an electric fence, especially if you're keeping livestock on the land. 

What is an electric fence? 

An electric fence is technically an open electrical circuit that functions when closed. It can be powered by a mains connection, a battery, or a combination of battery and solar panels.  It converts power into a high voltage pulse, which repeats every second or so, creating an unpleasant shock if a person or animal touches it. 

The electricity runs from a stake in the earth, through the ground, then the living thing, and back around to form a circuit of electricity.  This is the only time a circuit needs to be formed in an electric fence; the fence itself doesn't need to run in a complete circuit, it can just go for miles in one direction if necessary.

The purpose of an electric fence

Electric fences serve several different purposes:

  • Keeping livestock safely within one area or one field
  • Preventing domestic animals from escaping a set area
  • Warning away animal predators
  • Deterring potential burglars and intruders

The rules and regulations of electric fencing 

There are five main rules to abide by if you're looking to place electric fencing around your property. 

  1. Fence positioning. If your electric fencing borders roadways, or is in a suburban area, you must place regular signage at eye level along the entire length of the fencing. There should be clear and safe ways for people to pass by, through or around the area. Also, you need to make sure your fencing does not cross any power or telephone lines overhead.
  2. Warning signage. Warning signs should be placed no more than 50 metres apart and be no smaller than 20cm x 10cm. The signage should be coloured bright yellow and placed at 1.5m height in standard areas, or 0.8m if there are children present.
  3. Alternative security measures. If you are using barbed wire or razor wire alongside your electric fencing, it is important that this is not electrified too. Similarly, electric fencing should not be placed in a way that could entangle people or animals.
  4. Power and connections. The earthing electrode needs to be dug into the ground to a minimum of one metre. All the connecting leads, whether over or under the ground should be fully held within insulating material. There must also be a space of 10 metres between the power supply and the earthing stake.
  5. Emergency access. If you run a business and have electric fencing, it is important to consider where emergency services can enter the premises, and where they might need to go if an emergency occurs. For some people, this means creating an emergency exit somewhere along the fence perimeter.

Let the public know

If your fence borders public land or access points such as footpaths and bridleways, then it's important that you let people know that there are electric fences in the vicinity. That's why it's so important to make sure you position clear signage all along the fence so that people and animals such as dogs and horses don't come into contact with them.

It's particularly important during the summertime, when more people want to go out and about and enjoy the countryside, without getting a nasty shock!

Quality is key

One of the main things to note about having an electric fence is not to cut corners when it comes to cost.  Poorly engineered, installed or maintained electric fences can be extremely dangerous and not function as planned.  It is also critical to regularly inspect your fencing and the area around it for signs of weathering, wear and tear or damage caused by animals. 

Stay secure with your electric fencing

If you choose to install electric fencing, ensure you stay on the right side of the law. Work through each of the above rules and regulations with your lawyer or a solicitor that specialises in environmental or property issues. Install only high-quality fencing and keep it regularly inspected and maintained. You will then be able to enjoy the feeling of safety and security that electric fencing brings without the worry of breaking the law or injuring any people or animals.

Hannah Johnson

Hannah Johnson is a Solicitor in the Property Department and can be contacted on 01323 644222 or by email

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