Pit Bull Chat Forum

Welcome to Pit Bull Chat!

We are a diverse group of Pit Bull enthusiasts devoted to the preservation of the American Pit Bull Terrier.

Our educational and informational discussion forum about the American Pit Bull Terrier and all other bull breeds is a venue for members to discuss topics, share ideas and come together with the common goal to preserve and promote our canine breed of choice.

Here you will find discussions on topics concerning health, training, events, rescue, breed specific legislation and history. We are the premier forum for America’s dog, The American Pit Bull Terrier.

We welcome you and invite you to join our family.

You are currently viewing our boards as a guest which gives you limited access to view most discussions and access our other features. By joining our free community, you will have access to post topics, communicate privately with other members (PM), respond to polls, upload content and access many other features. Registration is fast, simple and absolutely free so please, join our community today!

If you have any problems with the registration process or your account login, please contact us

  • Welcome back!

    We decided to spruce things up and fix some things under the hood. If you notice any issues, feel free to contact us as we're sure there are a few things here or there that we might have missed in our upgrade.

Animals as liens for vet bills


Premium Member
Here's the situation. You are a veterinarian. You provided emergency surgery for a dog.

The charge to the client is $1,000.
It cost $600 in supplies and support staff wages to treat this animal.

The client cannot afford the fee.
The veterinarian decides to give a $400 discount to the client.
The client still cannot afford the bill (now $600).

Is it ethical for the veterinarian to keep the dog until he is paid the $600?


Good Dog
Super Moderator
Hmmm. I'm inclined to say no. You don't see doctors holding human patients that can't afford their medical bills. I don't think it's ethical to use a living thing as collateral. Then again, depending on laws, dogs can be legally defined as "property". That's a tough one.


Little Dog
I believe that a initial range must be provided before the surgery to prepare the owner. In another hand, it's common in my country, once you get into surgery (animals or not) they charge a safe deposit in your credit card or make you sign a contract. On this way we can prevent that kind of situation. Responding your question: i don't think that's legal or ethical hold the dog. According to our law hold a property of someone else it's a crime (in my country).
If no contract and or safe deposit, this vet is claiming for problems in my


Chi Super Dog
Wouldn't the vet give an estimate before the surgery to give the client an idea of what amount they will be paying?


Little Dog
Makes me love my vet even more. When my Rott got sick the meds where over 200 a month. Then surgeries got put on top of that. She has let me make payments now for over a year. I've never heard of her holding a dog for payment, but she sure has had a lot of owners abandon their dogs after bringing them in.

Team Peanut

Would there be hospital fee such as boarding meds and food charges for the animal being kept?

My my issue with that would be it making it even harder for the owner to come up with those fees. Perhaps keeping the animal in their care until money could be come up with isn't too bad since the animal would be in professional hands. Since pets are considered property then legally I suppose it is no different then keeping a car at a mechanic until the owner could pay. Ethically I would lean more towards setting up a payment plan since a car and an animal are different. The fees are due since work was performed but keeping the animal and if more charges come from housing said animal until the owner could pay just doesn't seem like a great idea.


Premium Member
Wouldn't the vet give an estimate before the surgery to give the client an idea of what amount they will be paying?

There are some situations in which that is not possible. For example:
The dog may be in the hospital for another procedure and there be an emergency. The owner cannot be reached. The vet does surgery to prevent death (obviously irreversible). Owner is reached during or after surgery.

The dog comes in as a stray. Vet provides emergency care to stabilize the dog. An owner is found afterward.

And the most fun of all, and why many vets do what Uno suggested, is when the client is given an estimate, the services are performed and then the client refuses to pay. They knew all along they could not.


Little Dog
Premium Member
There was a situation slightly similar to this that happened at the clinic I work at. A lady brought in a chow that she had found to check for a microchip. We called the owner and he agreed to meet the lady somewhere. As the lady was loading up the dog it freaked out and ran into the street where it got hit by a car. The owner was contacted, he said to go ahead and do whatever was necessary and after everything was said and done he refused to pay. He insisted that the lady who found his dog should have to pay because it was somehow her fault which is crazy because if his dog had been properly contained none of it would have ever happened. And apparently it was common for his dog to get out. I don't know if it was ever settled.
Honestly, I wouldn't see much reason why a vet would keep a dog till the bill was paid, feeding, housing and caring for the dog would simply eat up more time/ money then if they had just allowed the owner to take it home and then either A. refused further services until the bill had been paid in full or
B. send the bill off to a credit collection agency.

I mean, where would they keep the dog? in a cage in the back? and what happens if the dog is kept there for, lets say a total of 4 days before the owners are able to gather up the money to pay the bill, what happens if the dog becomes so upset that it hurts itself? what if some thing happens where the dog becomes injured just before the bill is payed? if the dog is in the vets care and the owners pay off the bill then the vet is responsible for any further care needed while the dog was in there care, what if the dog dies? does that mean the owners can sue the vet for negligence for killing there dog?

I just cant imagine any vets office doing this, it is just not practical because,even if they charged the owner for the costs of the dog while it is in their care- it does not help the time lost to care for the dog while there.
because the dog STILL needs to be let out to use the bathroom, still needs to be fed, still needs to be cared for, and in a busy vets office, that is the last thing they need is an extra dog demanding attention for an owner who, there is no telling will come back and pay for it.


Good Dog
Im on board with it not being practical. Cant vets get collection agencies involved like doctors do?

BTW this is the first time Im hearing of "most vets" getting payment up front. I've never been to a vet that did that. I've been lucky in that I've never had to have any serious procedures done on my dog but most recently for her dental work I know I paid after. Same thing when another vet kept her to do a biopsy which ended up not happening because the suspicious lump disappeared by the time they got around to it. In both cases the bill was completely dependent on what happened while she was under so it made no sense for me to pay first, as is the case with most surgery situations. The unknown always factors in. Now I could see paying the minimum it would be upfront and then paying the extra afterwards I suppose.


This is exactly why most vets require payment of the bill prior to the procedure.


Our emergency hospital takes payment before the procedure. You get the estimate, you pay the high end of the estimate - if it's less - they credit you post procedure.

In this case, the vet should send the patient a bill; and there should be a system in place where the bill gets turned over to a collection agency. And I suppose if the vet really wanted - she/he could take the patient to small claims court.

But keeping the animal as collateral sounds rather "mobish" and unethical because as much as it is property - it is a living, sentient being, at least that is my feeling about it. Besides which - $600 is a drop in the bucket for a vet's slarary. If they're THAT concerned about it and aren't prepared to write it off as pro bono work - then they shouldn't provide the care without money up front.

However if it's the case of coming in as a stray or a life threatening situation that can be stabilized - does the vet just perform the procedure or refuse if there is no payment? I don't know if there is the same ethical obligation as there is with human emergency rooms - meaning even if the person has no insurance and can't pay - the ER will at least do what they can to stabilize and save a life, they can't turn people away and let them die - and they have mechanisms in place to "writer off" that percentage of anticipated debt.

I have a hard time imagining someone who got into veterinary medicine (presumable b/c of their love of animals) willing letting an animal die b/c they're not getting paid. I know you can't do everything for free and I think as a business you need to do everything possible to get paid. But I think in some instances if you are a decent person you consider yourself as having done a piece of charity work and call it a day.

Maybe if an owner really can't pay, a "barter system" would work and the vet and owner could come up with a plan for the owner to "work off" the debt.

Just my 5 am ramblings.


Chi Super Dog
My vet gives an estimate and I have to pay part of that estimate. After the procedure is done, I either pay the rest or do a payment plan.