Abandoned Animals and Emergency Care

I have an animal that has been abandoned, what steps do I need to take?

The Abandoned Animal Law, Public Health Code 333.18838, states:

  • A veterinarian may dispose of an animal placed in the veterinarian's custody for treatment, boarding, or other care and abandoned by its owner by sending the notices required by this section. The veterinarian shall send a first written notice of an intent to dispose of the animal by certified mail to the owner, at his or her last known address and a second written notice not less than 5 days after sending the first notice. Upon the expiration of 5 days after sending the second written notice to the owner, a veterinarian may dispose of the animal.
  • The disposal of an animal does not release the owner from payment of costs incurred, including the disposal.
  • This section does not prevent the owner or agent from mitigating additional costs by removing the animal from custody of the veterinarian.
  • In the case of an animal abandoned by its owner, the owner is considered to have relinquished all rights to the animal.

Disposal can mean adopting the animal out, turning the animal over to a local shelter or humane society or, as a last resort, euthanasia. Sample letters can be found here: 1st Notification, 2nd Notification

Can I be held legally responsible for administering emergency care on a stray animal brought in by a concerned citizen?

As stated in the Good Samaritan act, effective March, 2000, a veterinarian or veterinary technician is not liable for civil damages if an animal has been brought to the veterinarian by a person other than the owner of the animal. Also, the veterinarian will not be held responsible if he/she does not know who owns the animal or is unable to contact the owner of the animal before a decision must be made with respect to emergency treatment or euthanasia. The immunity granted by the Good Samaritan Act applies to both of the following: an injury to an animal or death of an animal that results from acts or omissions by the veterinarian or veterinary technician in providing treatment to the animal or; the euthanasia of a seriously injured or seriously ill animal.

This section does not, however, apply to an act or omission by a veterinarian or veterinary technician amounting to gross negligence or willful and wanton misconduct in providing treatment to an animal. Also, the veterinarian should notify the animal control authority in the county in which the animal is found of the disposition of the treatment rendered to the animal before the end of the first business day following the day treatment is rendered.

Michigan Veterinary Medical Association

2144 Commons Parkway
Okemos, MI 48864-3986




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