Implementation Date: 4/16/2009
Date of Last Revision: 9/19/2023
Next Review Due: 9/18/2026
Reviewed by VTH Administrative Team: 4/7/2009
Reviewed by VTH Board: 4/16/2009
Reviewed by Legal Counsel: 12/12/2008
Reviewed by Biosecurity Subcommittee: N/A
Subject to modification by the VTH Administrative Team without Board approval.
Printable PDF: Abandoned Animals Policy
Abandoned animals are those that are at the clinic past the clinician’s recommended discharge date and the responsible party is either not communicating or responding to communications with the hospital to arrange for pick up.
- Numerous unreturned phone calls from the hospital OR
- Numerous conversations with the responsible party to do so.
Conversations as well as attempts to reach the client regarding the pickup of their animal(s) must be documented in the client communication notes in the electronic health record.
Once it has been established that an animal(s) has been abandoned the hospital may dispose of the animal(s) provided notice of intention to do so has been sent to the client’s last known address via certified mail and seven (7) days have elapsed after return of the certified mail receipt.*
If the client cannot be located at the last known address the hospital will give legal notice via newspaper publication that is circulated in the area the client was last known to reside. The hospital will allow seven (7) days after such publication before disposing of the animal(s).*
In the event animal(s) are not called for and if seven (7) days have expired since return of a certified mail receipt that was sent to the client’s address on record the animal(s) may be disposed of or sold.*
If the animal(s) is valuable, particularly if its value exceeds the amount owed for its care or boarding, consider using the provisions of the Agister’s Lien Act to give notice of and conduct a public sale of the animal. Contact the University of Illinois Legal Counsel for assistance with these procedures.
In the event the animal(s) is sold, the proceeds will be applied to the charges incurred as a result of hospitalization or treatment. Any remaining charges will remain the responsibility of the client. In the event ownership is transferred without sale, the previous client will remain responsible for the bill up to the point of ownership transfer.
*From the Illinois Veterinary Practice Act
Procedure (if applicable)
Abandoned animal actions should not be taken without the consent of the hospital director or his or her designee. Follow these procedures to begin the process.
- Send a certified letter to the client giving notice of the hospital’s intention to dispose of the abandoned animal.
- Wait seven (7) days after return of the certified mail receipt before taking further action.
- Note: If delivery via certified mail is unsuccessful, then and only then, publish a legal notice along the lines of the Illinois Veterinary Practice Act requirements:
“If the owner cannot be located at such address, the veterinarian shall give such notice by publication in a newspaper published and having a circulation in the area in which such owner was last known to reside and shall allow a period of seven (7) days to elapse after such publication before disposing of such animal.”
Definitions (if applicable)
Abandoned animal: any animal that is unclaimed.
Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH): The collective clinical services of the Large Animal Clinic, Midwest Equine, the Small Animal Clinic, and the Veterinary Medicine South Clinic.
Attachment- Legal Counsel Statement:
Disposal of Abandoned Animals
In those circumstances where the owner of record has not picked up his/her animal within 7 days of being notified that the animal is ready to be discharged and where prior arrangements for extended board have not been made, the VTH will consider the animal abandoned and dispose of that animal as provided by the Illinois Veterinary Practice Act and as reviewed by University legal counsel. The client of record will be responsible for all hospitalization and boarding charges until the animal is disposed of or a documented change of ownership has occurred.
The following opinion was offered by Laura Clower, Associate University Counsel:
“Based on our forms and the provision below, I think you can rely upon notice given by certified mail, as long as you wait 7 days AFTER return of the certified receipt before disposing of the animal. In the situation where delivery via certified mail is unsuccessful, then (and only then) you need to publish a legal notice along the lines of the statute's requirements. I remember the problem you had on one occasion getting a small-town paper to publish the notice, but if this should arise again I think you can simply tell the paper you are legally required to publish the notice and that if they will not agree to publish, your University legal counsel will be calling the managing editor.
If the animal is valuable, particularly if its value exceeds the amount owed for its care/boarding, we might want to consider using the provisions of the Agister's Lien Act to give notice of and conduct a public sale of the animal and if you want information on how that would work, let me know (I've recently had to help the Animal Science Department deal with this issue and the Act in connection with animals abandoned after being brought in for breeding). If an animal has little or no value, I think you are safe using just the Veterinary Practice Act provision for disposal of the animal.”
The following is taken from the Illinois Veterinary Practice Act:
“Unless otherwise contractually provided between veterinarian and client, a veterinarian may dispose of any animal abandoned in his establishment, provided he shall give notice of his intention to do so to the owner at the last-known address by certified mail, return receipt requested, and shall allow a period of 7 days to elapse after the receipt is returned before disposing of such animal. But if the owner cannot be located at such address, the veterinarian shall give such notice by publication in a newspaper published and having a circulation in the area in which such owner was last known to reside and shall allow a period of 7 days to elapse after such publication before disposing of such animal.”
225 ILCS115/18) (from Ch. 111, par. 7018)
Attachment posted on Dec 12, 2008