Find the right lawyer now

Veterinarian's Duty to Animals

Find a Local Personal Injury Lawyer near You

Veterinarian's Duty to Animals

Like family physicians, veterinarians take an oath of care prior to becoming veterinarians. Although the oath recognizes animal welfare, this does not give rise to legal duties to care and to treat animals. Nevertheless, depending on the state, veterinarians have duties of care to treat sick animals.

Duty to Pet Owners

When a pet owner brings a pet to the veterinarian, the veterinarian generally has a duty to treat the pet. Moreover, the veterinarian must first ask the pet owner what he wants to be done to the pet and what the cost is. If the pet owner does not give consent, then nothing much could be done except for payments and malpractice. Unlike for humans, the law that covers battery does not apply to animals.

A veterinarian can also euthanize pets and can keep your pets if you do not pay for the requested treatments.

Duty to Stray Animals

Veterinarians have no duty to treat stray animals that wander into their offices. However, the veterinarians may treat them, and even, euthanized them in emergency situations. Further, some states such as Massachusetts, provide the veterinarians with reimbursements to treat stray dogs.

Duty to Abandoned Pets

When a pet owner abandons his pet at the veterinarian’s office, the veterinarian does not have an infinite duty to care and to feed the pet. Most states have procedures set out for the veterinarians to follow.

In some states, the veterinarian has a certain amount of days to find a home for the abandoned pet. If the veterinarian is not successful, then the veterinarian may euthanize the pet. However, if the veterinarian euthanizes the dog too soon and the rightful owner wants to reclaim the pet, then the owner may have a claim against the veterinarian.

Consulting an Attorney

If you suspect that a veterinarian is guilty of animal cruelty or mistreatment, you should consider contacting a veterinary malpractice lawyer to assess your case.

Photo of page author Mabel Yee

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 06-16-2014 03:46 PM PDT

Law Library Disclaimer
  • No fee to present your case
  • Choose from lawyers in your area
  • A 100% confidential service
What is LegalMatch?

We've helped more than 4 million clients find the right lawyer – for free. Present your case online in minutes. LegalMatch matches you to pre-screened lawyers in your city or county based on the specifics of your case. Within 24 hours experienced local lawyers review it and evaluate if you have a solid case. If so, attorneys respond with an offer to represent you that includes a full attorney profile with details on their fee structure, background, and ratings by other LegalMatch users so you can decide if they're the right lawyer for you.