University of Vermont AAHS

Liens for Service to Horses


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Liens are rights in property to secure the payment of a debt.  If you are purchasing a home or vehicle "on installments" the bank or finance company has a lien on the property you are buying.  If you do not make your payments on time, the creditor can execute on the lien by repossessing the car or foreclosing on the house mortgage.  The creditor can seize the property, sell it at a public sale, apply the proceeds of the sale to pay off the loan balance and expenses of enforcing the lien, and return the remainder (if any) of the sale proceeds to you.

Possessory liens are liens on property that is already in the possession of the creditor.  For example, if you take your automobile to a repair shop, the shop has a possessory lien on your car to secure payment of the repair bill.  That means it can keep your car until you pay the bill and, if it becomes necessary, can have the car sold to obtain its money.

This segment consists of liens for three specific types of services that are provided to horse owners: veterinary services, farrier services, and breeding services. Laws in many states give veterinarians, horseshoers and stallion owners liens to secure payment for their services. In the case of stallion owners, liens extend to the foal and sometimes to the mare that was bred.

(Scroll down to view state statutes.)

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Most states do not have all three types of special service liens. However, all states (except for Rhode Island) have agister's liens for providing board for horses. Many agister's liens are worded broadly enough to be useful to secure payment for veterinary, farrier or breeding services. This is particularly likely if an owner has left his or her horse with a veterinarian or a stallion owner or (conceivably) a farrier for service. In that event, the agister's lien is likely to create a possessory lien on the horse to secure payment of the boarding part of the bill, which may give sufficient leverage to obtain full payment.

An agister's lien is a special type of possessory lien that applies when one person takes care of the livestock of another by providing board or sometimes training for the horse or other livestock.  If you run a stable or train horses, you have possession of the horse and under the laws of most states can keep possession of that horse until your board or training bill is paid by the horse's owner.  If the nonpayment persists, you can have the horse sold to collect the amount owed.

This segment consists of the three types of special service liens and agisters liens in 49 states (none could be found for Rhode Island).  These laws spell out the rights and duties of the lien holder (veterinarian, farrier or stallion owner) and the debtor (horse owner).  The laws in each of these states are the same in that they create a possessory lien but the procedures required to sell the horse to pay the debt vary greatly from state to state.

A related statutory compilation collects agister's liens for 49 of the states. See  Liens for Care of Horses.

As in the other statutory compilations in our web site, there are sometimes gaps in statutory numbering.  These gaps may reflect statutes that are not applicable to horse transactions or statutes that have been repealed.

Every effort has been made to make this compilation accurate and comprehensive.  However, no warranty or guarantee is provided and the reader is urged to consult an attorney knowledgeable in equine law in his or her state before making important decisions. These materials are provided for information only and not as legal advice; no attorney-client relationship is created or intended.

This page was initially posted on November 26, 1997.
All statutes were reviewed and updated as needed in August 2001.

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