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Is it legal for a vet to keep a dog as collateral until they have received payment?

Q:

Is it legal for a vet to keep a dog as collateral until they have received payment?

A:

The laws vary in each state. Generally (but not always), a veterinarian can withhold an animal pending payment (but must take proper care of the animal during this time). However, it is important to also note that many states have laws which provide that an animal may be deemed abandoned if the animal’s “owner” or "owner's" agent does not respond in a timely manner to letters sent by the veterinarian which give the “owner” or person who left the animal at the facility a specified amount of time (as provided by the state’s law) to retrieve the animal. In some states if the animal’s “owner” or agent responds to the abandonment letters and attempts to retrieve the animal within the specified time period, the animal cannot be deemed abandoned even if the veterinarian’s bill has not been paid. New York’s law, for example, requires the veterinarian to return the animal to the animal’s “owner”/agent if the veterinarian sent the abandonment letters and the animal's “owner”/agent responded within the time period provided by law, even if the bill remains unpaid.

Below is Iowa’s law regarding animals left at a veterinarian/kennel. I suggest you also consult with the Iowa Board of Veterinary Medicine. Sometimes these boards have their own rules of conduct. Some states also have lien laws which may be applicable as well.

Iowa law 162.19: Whenever any animal is left with a veterinarian, boarding kennel or commercial kennel pursuant to a written agreement and the owner does not claim the animal by the agreed date, the animal shall be deemed abandoned, and a notice of abandonment and its consequences shall be sent within seven days by certified mail to the last known address of the owner. For fourteen days after mailing of the notice the owner shall have the right to reclaim the animal upon payment of all reasonable charges, and after the fourteen days the owner shall be deemed to have waived all rights to the abandoned animal. If despite diligent effort an owner cannot be found for the abandoned animal within another seven days, the veterinarian, boarding kennel, or commercial kennel may humanely destroy the abandoned animal. Each veterinarian, boarding kennel or commercial kennel shall warn its patrons of the provisions of this section by a conspicuously posted notice or by conspicuous type in a written receipt.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott

 

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