Issue 51 - Abandoned Animals


Veterinarians often call the Board’s office seeking guidance about clients not returning to pick up treated animals.  The Board provides the following information for veterinarians in these circumstances.


Prevention is best:

  1. Firstly, ensure admission forms and records include as many details as possible about the client such as home and work phone numbers (and not just a mobile) and a street address (not just a post office box).
  2. Ensure as best you can that you are dealing with either the person who is actually responsible for the care of the animal or the owner of the animal.
  3. Ensure that you obtain informed consent from the person responsible for the care of the animal before providing veterinary services to the animal.  Informed consent must include the likely extent and outcome of the veterinary services and an estimate of the costs of those services.
  4. Explain any payment policies adopted by your practice prior to admission.


Next steps:

  1. If the animal has not been collected at the arranged time, attempt to contact the client by phone to politely inform them that their animal is now ready to go home.
  2. If the client is reluctant to pick up the animal because of lack of funds you will need to discuss payment options (as above it is best to have a written policy on these and to communicate these earlier).
  3. If you are able to work out a payment plan put this in writing and note the possibility of further action if the agreement is breached.


Further steps:

  1. While the animal remains in your possession you have to feed, water and look after the animal and if you have chosen to hold the animal while awaiting payment then you are responsible for these costs.
  2. If you are unable to contact the client by phone the next step is a letter posted to the address or addresses available.  Provide details of the animal’s progress, include a detailed account, payment option information if appropriate and invite immediate contact.  The letter should also include a deadline after which date you will consider the animal to be abandoned.


If all the above fail and you are left with an abandoned animal the final step is to surrender the animal to the local pound.

You are not able to re-home an animal abandoned at your hospital.  If you would like to assist with arrangements to find a new home for the animal talk to your local pound about options.