stables, even very high-end ones, occasionally find
themselves with customers who run up large past due
balances and refuse to remove their horses. As a
result, the facility finds itself essentially feeding
and caring for someone elseís horses for free.
Meanwhile, the deadbeat customerís horses occupy
facilities that could be filled with paying customersí
horses. How can a Washington horse facility lawfully
sell a customerís horses to satisfy a debt?
provides Washington persons and businesses with an
automatic lien on their customersí horses to satisfy
debts incurred in caring for or providing services to
those horses, such as boarding and training. This type
of lien is sometimes called an agisterís lien, and it
means the facility can refuse to allow a customerís
horses to leave until the bill for those horses is
paid in full.
lien is automatic, the ability to sell the horses to
satisfy the debt is not. Here are the steps a
lienholder must take to be able to sell the horses:
holder must perfect the lien pursuant to
Posting a lien notice in a conspicuous place
where the horses are kept
Providing a copy of the lien notice to the
Providing a copy of the lien notice to any
other lien holder (if the lien is more than
Within 180 days after the lien attaches, the lien
holder must file suit against the debtor in a
court that has jurisdiction over the area where
the horses are located
court finds in the lien holderís favor, the horses
may be sold pursuant to the requirements of
which include prior notice to the debtor.
Frequently Asked Questions about Horse Lien
Foreclosure in Washington
horses arenít worth anything. Can I give them away,
sell them for a dollar, take them to a rescue or
donate them to a therapeutic riding facility?
Not lawfully. If you give away or donate the horses
without the debtorís permission, the debtor could
later sue you for what is called conversion.
Conversion is essentially the civil form of theft.
Even if the debtor doesnít ultimately win their case
against you, you will still have to pay a lawyer to
defend you, which is expensive.
donít know where the debtor lives. How can I sue them
if I donít know where they live?
In order to sue someone, you will need to have them
personally served with a summons and complaint. That
means youíll need to know where to find them. To find
the debtor, you may want to use one of the many free
online people finder services, such as
(which also has a reverse phone directory search). In
extreme cases, you may need to hire a private
detective to track down the debtor for you.
The debtor has several
horses, and one is worth more than the others. Can I
keep the valuable one and let the debtor take the
but you can only assert a lien on the valuable horse
for the amount that is actually owed with respect to
there any other way to sell the horses without going
through the lien foreclosure steps in the Washington
Only two: Getting the debtor to sign the horses over
to you, or getting the debtor to waive their rights
under the lien statutes. Equine Legal Solutionsí
horse boarding contract forms
contain a lien statute waiver provision.
debtor already took the horses from my property. Can I
still file a lien?
Because the horses arenít on your property anymore,
you no longer have the automatic lien provided by the
agisterís lien statute. However, you can still sue the
debtor to collect the amount owed, which is often a
more practical alternative to foreclosing on an
agisterís lien Ė
Q: Do I
have to keep feeding and caring for the horses that
are on my property, even though Iím not getting paid?
Yes, or you run the risk of violating animal cruelty
provides that lien sale proceeds are applied first to
the reasonable expenses of holding the horses and
preparing them for sale.
Q: Iím a
vet, farrier or business other than a boarding barn.
Do I still have lien rights?
Yes, as long as you have the horses in your
is broad as to whom it applies: ďfarmer, ranchman,
herder of cattle, livery and boarding stable keeper,
veterinarian, or other person, to whom horsesÖare
entrusted for the purpose of feeding, herding,
pasturing, training, caring for, or ranching.Ē
Q: Can I
go to small claims court and get an order to sell the
No, you will have to file in regular civil court.
Q: Can I
foreclose on my lien without having to hire an
Technically, yes, but you may find the statutory
requirements difficult to navigate on your own, and
errors will cause additional delay.
Q: If I
hire an attorney to represent me, can I recoup that
cost from the debtor?
Only if you have an attorneysí fees and costs
provision in your boarding contract, training
contract, or other contract covering your care of the
horses Ė see
All of Equine Legal Solutionsí
equine form contracts
include this type of provision.
to schedule a
with an equine attorney licensed in Washington.