EQUESTRIAN QUESTION FORUM: by Lisa L. Lerch, Esq. My boarder left the horse and a huge bill!!!! How do I get paid? California law provides protection for service providers in the form of a Livestock Service Lien. A livestock servicer (in this instance a boarding facility) has a general lien upon livestock (horse) in its possession to ensure all contractual obligations are met. The boarding facility may choose to do one of the following to recoup their costs: 1. Retain possession of the horse and charge the owner for the reasonable value of services to the horse until such time all charges have been satisfied; or 2. Sell all or any portion of the livestock so long as the lienholder obtains a favorable judgment from a court of law. A note of caution! A lienholder may not proceed to sale without first going to court or obtaining a release from the horse owner. Any lienholder that sells a horse without applying to a court of law first is risking exposure to theft charges. Remember, you can't sell what isn't yours! Unfortunately, court hearings take time and the horse keeps eating. There is help. In circumstances where the horse's value will not meet the outstanding debt, as well as the cost of continuing care, a lienholder may appeal to the court on an "emergency" basis to allow the lienholder to proceed to sale without the required notice to the horse owner. One way to avoid the necessity of litigation altogether is to have the horse owner execute a "release of interest document", which can be executed at any time after the lien has arisen, thereby erasing the necessity of a court order. The language in this release is determined by statute and lienholders should consult with an attorney to ensure it is drafted properly. Once the boarding facility is able to proceed to sale, the proceeds of the sale must be applied in the following order: 1. The charges for livestock services from the date the lien arose to the date of sale. 2. The costs incurred for transporting and preparing the livestock for sale and of conducting the sale. 3. The reasonable attorney's fees and legal costs and expenses incurred by the lienholder. 4. For satisfaction of the contractual indebtedness secured by the lien. 5. For satisfaction of indebtedness of subordinate liens. Depending upon the market value of the livestock, the boarding facility may be able to recoup all outstanding debt plus attorney's fees and costs, so it is certainly worth pursuing if you've been left with the feed bill. This article is meant to provide general information only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. The information in this article is not intended to establish an attorney-client relationship between attorney and reader. The contents of this article are not a substitute for seeking the advice of legal counsel. Copyright 2007. Legal Equestrian, a Professional Law Corporation All rights reserved.