State Summary Report

 Veterinary liens

Updated April 2014

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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.

Source:  Staff research, AVMA State Legislative and Regulatory Department
Contact:  Tara Southwell, State Policy Analyst, AVMA State Legislative and Regulatory Department, 847-285-6779