State Summary Report

 Veterinary liens

Last updated September 2017

Listed below are states that AVMA research has identified with current laws in place which allow a veterinarian and, in some cases, any person who boards or treats an animal under contract with the owner, to place a lien on such animal and detain it until payment is made. There are some states that allow officers of the peace to take an animal into possession after he or she determines that the animal is being treated cruelly, is being neglected, and/or is abandoned. The officer may then place a lien on the animal for the costs associated with caring for the animal and detain the animal until the debt is paid.

Although many states differ in their enforcement of the lien laws, the general rule is that if the debt is not paid within 10 – 20 days of giving proper notice to the owner, the veterinarian or caregiver may sell the animal, or, in some cases, euthanize the animal or turn it over to a humane society. In most states, a lien attaches once the debt becomes due, however, in a couple of states, a veterinarian or caregiver must perfect the lien by filing a finance statement with the Secretary of State's office. Only a handful of states require that the lien be enforced through a legal process.

The general rule in most states is that once the veterinarian or caregiver sells the animal, he or she may use the proceeds to pay the debt due as well as any costs associated with putting the animal up or sale. Any surplus must then be given to the owner of the animal.

Summaries

Alabama Every veterinarian shall have a lien on every animal kept, fed, surgically treated or operated on while in his or her custody and under contract with the owner for payment of his or her charges for keeping, feeding, treating or surgically treating or operating on such animal and he or she has the right to retain the animal until said charges are paid.
10 days after giving notice to the owner, the veterinarian may sell the animal. If he or she does not receive payment within 15 days of notice, the veterinarian may dispose of the animal in a manner that he or she deems proper.
California If the amount due for veterinary services has not been paid within 10 days after the payment has become due, the animal is considered liened. A veterinarian must give notice 10 to 20 days prior to selling the animal but he or she may only sell the animal. After 14 days the animal is considered abandoned and another 10 days after that, the veterinarian may euthanize.
Connecticut Any person who keeps and feeds animals under an agreement with the owner, has a lien on such animal and may detain the animal until the debt is paid. If it is not paid within 30 days, he or she may sell the animal at public auction upon giving written notice to the owner of the time and place of such sale at least six days before such sale and apply the proceeds to the payment of such debts, returning any surplus to the owner.
Colorado Any feeder, veterinarian, or other person to whom pet animals are entrusted for the purpose of feeding, keeping, boarding, or medical care shall have a lien, which shall be superior to all other liens, upon such pet animals for the amount that may be due for such care. The lienholder may sell, exchange or otherwise dispose of the animal and the lien continues and attaches to the proceeds received or receivable therefrom.
Florida Liens for veterinarians valid for one year from the date of professional service.
Georgia Lien law for veterinarians for services provided. After 10 days, the veterinarian may sell the animal or give it to the humane society. If there are no humane societies within a 50 mile radius, then the veterinarian may euthanize in a humane way.
​Hawaii Any person who pastures, feeds, or shelters animals by virtue of a contract with or by the consent of the owner of the animals for compensation agreed upon, has a lien on the animals for pasturing, feeding, or sheltering to secure payment thereof with costs.
​Idaho Any livery or boarding or feed stable proprietors, and persons pasturing livestock of any kind, have a lien, dependent on possession, for their compensation in caring for, boarding, feeding or pasturing such livestock. If the liens as herein provided are not paid within sixty (60) days after the work is done, service rendered, or feed or pasturing supplied, the person in whose favor such special lien is created may proceed to sell the property at a licensed public livestock auction market, or if the lien is on equines, to sell the animals at a sale offered to the public, after giving ten (10) days' notice to the owner or owners of the livestock and the state brand inspector.
​Illinois Any person who, at the request of the owner or his authorized agent, shall shoe or cause to be shod by his employees any horse, mule, ox or other animal shall have a lien upon the animal shod for his reasonable charge for shoeing the same. However, such lien shall not attach where the property has changed ownership prior to the filing of such lien.
​Indiana
Any person who, at the request of an owner or an owner's authorized agent:
(1) shoes or causes to be shod by the person's employees a horse, a mule, an ox, or other animal; or
(2) repairs or causes to be repaired by the person's employees, a vehicle; has a lien upon the animal shod or vehicle repaired for the person's reasonable charge for shoeing the animal or repairing the vehicle.
 
This lien law also applies to the keeper of a livery stable or a person engaged in feeding horses, cattle, hogs, and other livestock.
Iowa A veterinarian's lien exists, but it must be enforced by filing a financing statement in the office of the Secretary of State. The lien applies only to livestock.
Kansas A veterinarian may hold and retain an animal until the debt is paid. The lien is valid if the lien holder recorded verified notice of the lien upon such animal in the office or register of deeds within 60 days of services rendered.
Kentucky Any licensed veterinarian who performs professional services for an animal, by contract with, or by the written consent of, the owner or authorized agent shall have a lien on the animal to secure the cost of the service provided.
​Louisiana ​Any person who furnishes feed or medicines for a horse or horses, or any licensed veterinarian who furnishes medical services for a horse or horses, to or upon the order of the owner, has a privilege for the unpaid portion of the price thereof upon the horse or horses of the owner, which received the feed, medicine, or medical services. This privilege is effective for a period of six months from the dates of the respective deliveries and may be enforced by the writ of sequestration. This privilege is superior to all claims, privileges, and mortgages, whether recorded or unrecorded, which theretofore may have been or thereafter may be created against such horse or horses, and to the claims of any and all purchasers thereof.
Maryland Veterinarian's lien may be enforced after 10 days of giving notice to the owner. After 10 days the veterinarian may sell it, give it to an animal welfare agency or turn the animal over to a responsible private individual in the county. There also exists a lien on livestock.
Maine Any person who is forced to take possession of an animal shall have a lien for expenses reasonably incident to taking an animal into custody.
Minnesota Veterinarians have a lien on the animal for professional services rendered. The veterinarian may hold onto the animal until the lien is paid.
Mississippi Officers who seize animals that have been mistreated have a lien for care and services provided to the animal.
Missouri Every person who keeps, boards or trains any animal shall, for the amount due therefore, have a lien on the animal. No owner or claimant has the right to take the animal until debt is paid.
​Montana ​A veterinarian may retain an animal or refuse to release records for failure to pay veterinary bills.
Nevada Any peace officer or officer of a society for the prevention of cruelty to animals who takes possession of an animal being treated cruelly has a lien for the cost of care.
Nebraska Veterinary liens for care and/or treatment of livestock must be perfected under UCC Article 9. This includes filing a finance statement within 90 days.
​Nevada Any peace officer or officer of a society for the prevention of cruelty to animals who takes possession of an animal being treated cruelly has a lien for the cost of care.
New Jersey A veterinarian has a lien on a horse kept at a livery stable or boarding and exchange stable and may retain the animal until the debt is paid.
​New Mexico

Any person who shall shoe or cause to be shod by his employees any horse, mule, ox or other animal, shall have a lien upon such animal for the amount due or to become due for such labor or services, and for all costs incurred in enforcing such lien, and may detain such animal in his possession until such sum is paid.Innkeepers, livery stable keepers, lessors and agistors and those who board others for pay or furnish feed, shelter or pasture for the property and stock of others shall have a lien on the property and stock of such guest or guests and lessees or of those to whom feed or shelter has been furnished until the same is paid, and shall have the right to take and retain possession of such property and stock until the indebtedness is paid.

Innkeepers, livery stable keepers, lessors and agistors and those who board others for pay or furnish feed, shelter or pasture for the property and stock of others shall have a lien on the property and stock of such guest or guests and lessees or of those to whom feed or shelter has been furnished until the same is paid, and shall have the right to take and retain possession of such property and stock until the indebtedness is paid.

New York Veterinarians have a lien for services, boarding, etc. and may keep the animal until the debt is paid.
North Carolina Those who take possession of an animal due to animal cruelty shall have a lien on the animal for the necessary expenses of caring for the animal including necessary veterinary care.
North Dakota Veterinarians that take possession of an animal because it has been exposed to bad weather or not fed and watered have a lien for all services provided. If the animal is still in possession of the veterinarian 5 days after giving notice to the owner, then the veterinarian may apply to district court for an order to sell the animal and discharge the lien. If the veterinarian takes possession of an abandoned animal, then the same rules apply except after 5 days of giving notice, the vet may sell the animal and discharge the lien.
Ohio Any person who feeds or boards an animal under contract with the owner shall have a lien on such animal to secure payment for food and board furnished.
Oklahoma Every person who shall keep, board or train any animals, shall, for the amount due therefore, have a lien on such animal.
Oregon A peace officer or person claiming a lien for the cost of care services bestowed on an animal impounded due to investigations or proceedings under the cruelty statute must retain the animal for at least 30 days after the lien attaches to the animal before foreclosing the lien. If the animal is a dog or cat, the period shall be at least 15 days.
Pennsylvania People who take animals into their custody after the animal has been treated cruelly, have a lien on such animal.
Rhode Island Any person who keeps and feeds an animal under an agreement with the owner, shall have a lien for the price of the keeping and may detain the animal until the debt is paid. After 30 days, the keeper may sell the animal upon giving written notice to the owner at least 6 days before the sale.
South Carolina A licensed veterinarian has a lien on each animal treated, boarded, or cared for while in the veterinarian's custody for payment of charges for treatment, board, or care of the animal. The veterinarian has the right to retain the animal until the charges are paid by the owner of the animal. An animal boarding facility may keep animals until the fees have been paid. After 10 days they may sell the animal if proper notice requirements have been met.
​South Dakota
Any person to whom any domesticated animal shall be entrusted by the owner thereof or pursuant to his authority for the purpose of feeding, herding, pasturing, or ranging shall have a lien thereon for the amount that may be due for such service and supplies. Such lien shall entitle the person to retain possession of such domesticated animals until the amount
due is paid.
 
Every duly licensed and registered veterinarian shall have a lien for vaccinating livestock for cholera, anthrax, blackleg, hemorrhagic septicemia, or swine erysipelas from the date of such vaccination upon all livestock so vaccinated.
 
Any law enforcement officer, agent of the board, or agent or officer of any humane society finding an animal neglected, abandoned, mistreated, or subjected to cruelty, may, pursuant to a warrant or court order, cause the animal to be impounded and properly cared for, and the expenses of such impoundment or care constitute a lien on the animal to be paid before the animal may be lawfully recovered.
Tennessee After 10 days and proper notice, a veterinarian may sell the animal at a private or public sale. If after 10 days, he or she does not sell the animal, he or she may euthanize it or turn it over to the humane society. An officer taking possession of an animal because of cruelty to the animal has a lien which must be paid before the animal can be recovered.
Humane societies are also given lien privileges when an animal comes into its possession.
Texas A veterinarian may dispose of an abandoned animal after 10 days of giving notice to the owner and may still recover the costs.
A 2009 law provides for liens on large animals and proceeds from the disposition of large animals to secure the cost of veterinary care the veterinarian provided to such animals. These liens attach on the 20th day after the date the veterinarian first provides care to the large animal, and they attach regardless of whether the veterinarian retains possession of the large animal.
​Utah

Every ranchman, farmer, agistor, herder of cattle, tavern keeper or livery stable keeper to whom any domestic animals shall be entrusted for the purpose of feeding, herding or pasturing shall have a lien upon such animals for the amount that may be due him for such feeding, herding or pasturing, and is authorized to retain possession of such animals until such amount is paid.

Any law enforcement officer may take possession of any animals being treated cruelly and, after reasonable efforts to notify the owner, may provide shelter and care for them or upon permission from the owner may destroy them.

​Vermont A person to whom charges are due for pasturing, boarding, or keeping domestic animals placed with the consent of the owner thereof in his or her care, if the charges become due while such animals remain in his or her possession, may retain the same until such charges are paid. After 30 days from the time the charges become due, he or she may sell such animals in the manner provided for the sale of property under a lien for repairs, if such charges remain unpaid.
Virginia

A veterinarian has a lien for cost of care and treatment and may sell the animal at a public or private sale after 14 days of giving proper notice to the owner.

​Washington

Any agister shall have a lien upon the horses, mules, cattle, or sheep, and upon the proceeds or accounts receivable from such animals, for such amount that may be due for the feeding, herding, pasturing, training, caring for, and ranching of the animals, and shall be authorized to retain possession of the horses, mules, cattle, or sheep, until the amount is paid or the lien expires, whichever first occurs. The lien attaches on the date such amounts are due and payable but are unpaid.

If a law enforcement officer authorizes removal of an animal pursuant to chapter 16.52 RCW, the person or entity receiving the animal and aiding in its care or restoration to health shall have a lien upon the animal for the cost of feeding, pasturing, and caring otherwise for the animal.

​West Virginia

A person keeping a livery stable, or boarding stable for animals, or a garage or storage place for automobiles or other vehicles, or who boards, pastures, feeds or trains animals for hire, has a lien upon such animals or vehicles for the sum due him for the care, boarding, pasturage, feeding, or training of such animals, or the care, keeping or storage of such vehicles, even though such animals or vehicles are permitted to be taken out of the possession of the one claiming such lien, if the contract between the owner and the person claiming such lien for keeping, boarding, pasturage, feeding, training or storage, has not been terminated at the time such animal or vehicle is taken out of such possession.

When any humane officer shall provide any neglected or abandoned animal with proper food, shelter and care, he shall have a lien upon such animal for the expense thereof, and such expense shall be charged against the owner of such animal.

​Wisconsin A humane officer, on behalf of a political subdivision in which the humane officer has jurisdiction, or a law enforcement officer, on behalf of a political subdivision, may take custody of an animal if the humane officer or law enforcement officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the animal is one of the following:
1. An abandoned or stray animal.
2. An unwanted animal delivered to the humane officer or law enforcement officer.
3. A dog not tagged
4. An animal not licensed in compliance with any ordinance.
5. An animal not confined as required by a quarantine order under any statute, rule or ordinance relating to the control of any animal disease.
6. An animal that has caused damage to persons or property.
8. An animal used in any crime or that constitutes evidence of a crime.
9. An animal delivered by a veterinarian.
​Wyoming When any person arrested under this act is in charge of any vehicle drawn by or containing any livestock animal cruelly treated at the time of arrest, any peace officer, agent or officer of the board may take charge of the livestock animal and vehicle and its contents, and give notice thereof to the owner, if known, and shall provide for them until their owner takes possession of them. The board or local government shall have a lien on the livestock animals, the vehicle and its contents for the expense of the care and provision.

Source:  Staff Research, AVMA Division of State Advocacy & Leadership
Contact:  AVMA Division of State Advo​cacy & Leadership