Can You Have a Horse in Your Backyard in California?

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A Backyard horse

If you're a property owner in California and wondering whether you can have a horse in your backyard, you've come to the right place. Owning a horse in The Golden State isn't as simple as you might think. Firstly, horse ownership, along with other animals, isn't regulated at the state level but rather at the local level. This means that whether or not you can have a horse in your backyard in California depends on the municipality you live in and its rules and laws. For example, it might be legal to own a horse in San Diego but illegal in San Francisco.

Secondly, having enough space on your property is crucial if you want to own a horse in California. Thirdly, and most importantly, you need to be aware of your local animal laws. In most California cities, horses are considered livestock or farm animals, which means they can only be kept in agriculturally zoned areas and not in urban areas. So, if you don't live in a rural or agriculturally zoned area in California, you need to check your local animal laws before getting a horse.

Meanwhile, in this blog post, I've researched and highlighted the laws on horse ownership in a few California cities.

Los Angeles, CA

According to the information bulletin provided by the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (LADBS), horse ownership is generally permitted on residentially zoned lots in Los Angeles, as long as it is in conjunction with the residential use of the lot. However, LADBS specifies that the keeping of horses on residentially zoned lots is not allowed for commercial purposes, except in the A and RA zones, as well as in the designated "K" Equine-keeping District.

For your information, the inclusion of the "K" suffix designates an equine-keeping district, where horse ownership is permitted. The number of horses that can be kept on a lot is determined by the specific zone designation and the area of the lot, as outlined in the table below.


San Jose, CA

If you reside in San Jose, California, it is imperative to ensure you have sufficient space and obtain the necessary permit from the health officer before owning a horse. According to the Municipal Code of the City, it is strictly prohibited to keep a horse within a distance of one hundred fifty feet from any dwelling, except your own, or within thirty-five feet from your own dwelling. Furthermore, the Code explicitly states that any corral, fenced area, or restraint for horses must be situated no closer than sixty feet to a dwelling or swimming pool on the adjacent property to where the horses are kept.

Sacramento, CA

If you reside in Sacramento County, you have the opportunity to keep horses on agricultural-residential and residential lots that are 20,000 square feet or larger, solely for hobby purposes. For further details, please reach out to Code Enforcement at 916-874-6444, via email at saccode@saccounty.gov, or visit their official website.

Long Beach, CA

In Long Beach, California, the keeping of horses on personally-owned properties is permitted in various districts, including R-1, R-2, R-3, R-4, and others. However, in all districts, the minimum requirement for lot area is 8,000 square feet in order to accommodate a horse.

In the R-1 district, the maximum number of horses allowed on any one lot is limited to five. On the other hand, in the R-2, R-3, and R-4 districts, the allowance is one horse for every 2,500 square feet of lot area. For all other districts, the ratio is one horse for every 1,000 square feet of lot area.

For more detailed information, please refer to CHAPTER 21.38 of the Long Beach Municipal Code.

Anaheim, CA

If you reside in Anaheim, CA, then you'll need a property that spans at least one acre (that's a whopping 43,560 square feet) if you want to own a horse. You're only allowed to have one adult horse and its little ones under eight months old for every quarter-acre (that's 10,890 square feet) of land you own.

As per Anaheim Municipal Code, you can't keep your horse within fifty feet of any building where humans live, unless it's your own humble abode. And if you're thinking of getting cozy with your horse near the property line, think again! You need to keep a safe distance of at least twenty feet from any boundary line, unless you're keeping your horse inside your actual house.

Irvine, CA

If you reside in Irvine, CA, and have a desire to keep a horse in your backyard, it is imperative to obtain a livestock permit from the Director of Public Safety or their designated representative. As outlined in Chapter 9, Section 4-5-908 of the Irvine Code of Ordinances, all horse owners are required to construct and uphold a fence as specified by the Director of Public Safety or their designated representative. This fence must adhere to both City and State regulations concerning the temporary or permanent housing and confinement of the animal(s) for which the permit is granted and the fence is established or maintained.

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