Can The Vet Seize Your Pet If You Don’t Pay?
We all love our pets. In a new survey, many married people say they would rather sleep in the same bed with their pet than their spouse. Many married people also say they have more photos of their pets in their phone than their spouse. It's easy to love a pet. They give their adoration unconditionally. Countless studies have shown that loving a pet makes us all a little more compassionate, patient, and empathetic.
That's why I was so shocked to read the story of a man who lost his beloved dog because he could not pay the vet bill. Rachel Mullen a Scarborough, Maine woman got Jaxx her four month old German Shepherd from a breeder in March. Rachel told a local t.v. station that Jaxx and her were inseparable ever since.
Unfortunately, Jaxx ended up with a wooden skewer in his belly. They took him to Maine Veterinary Medical Center a 24-hour emergency clinic. The next morning the Vet Clinic called her and informed her that Jaxx would need a surgery costing more than $10,000.
Rachel and her fiance worked all day trying to come up with the money, but it came down to the vet clinic offering to either pay or surrender him. To keep him from dying, the reluctantly agreed to surrender their beloved pet. Even though Rachel with the help of many friends and the notoriety of a t.v. news story was able to raise the money, she has been told by the clinic that the dog is gone and she couldn't get him back.
I understand the agony of this situation. I lost my beloved Crimsa, Persian Cat in November because there was no way I could come up with the over $10,000 it was going to cost to help her recover from a serious illness. This agony is real.
In Texas, the law covering this is V. T. C. A., Property Code § 70.010. But it only allows a veterinarian a lien for large animals defined as " livestock or a cow, horse, mule, ass, sheep, goat, llama, alpaca, farm elk, or hog." The law states: "A licensed veterinarian has a lien on a large animal and the proceeds from the disposition of the large animal to secure the cost of veterinary care the veterinarian provided to the large animal. The lien attaches on the 20th day after the veterinarian first provided care to the large animal and attaches regardless of whether the veterinarian retains possession of the animal."
In some cases, the situation is complicated by laws that allow clinics to sell you animals for research purposes, if you have to sign your pet over for non payment. This means they can literally do medical testing on your poor pet.
However, according to the Pet Advocates website "Bestiepaws", veterinarians have the legal right to keep you dog in their possession for a reasonable period of time until you pay for their care. Fortunately, there are limits on how long they can keep them or what they must do to inform you of your pet's whereabouts.
Before you seek medical care for your pet, make sure you have a firm understanding of what the costs might be and what, if any, arrangements can be made to pay over time. If can't find a payment plan negotiate directly with the vet. Many vets will offer 6-12 month financing interest free. Some vets even offer huge discounts for owners who can't afford to pay, but it is important to be upfront from the beginning about your situation.
A pet insurance policy is always a good idea for pet owners. There are many commercially available policies that are reasonably priced and more and more workplaces are offering discount pet insurance for employees.
There are also a few charitable organizations that might help if you cannot pay. They include Redrover Relief, The Pet Fund, The Brown Dog Foundation, Care Credit and The Humane Society. American Express Card owners can also get a line of credit up to $35,000 for payment of veterinary services.
I can't imagine the horror of finding out that in order to get your pet the lifesaving surgery they need, you would have to surrender your pet to a vet who could then sell him to a medical research lab for horrible experiments. Like in so many other occasions in life, knowledge is power. The more you know, the better your options.
In the meantime, give your pet a hug for Rachel who is unsure if she or her kids will ever see their beloved Jaxx again.