One of the more interesting legal questions I answered over the years goes like this:
I’ve been boarding a horse for someone for the last few months and now the horse’s owner has stopped paying me. I can’t stop feeding the horse, but what can I do?
This scenario is quite common for stable owners. People often buy horses and then later realize that stall boarding is more expensive than they anticipated.
Fortunately, the Indiana Code provides the answer to the stable owner. Indiana law gives “the keeper of a livery stable or a person engaged in feeding horses, cattle, hogs, and other livestock” a lien upon the livestock in amount of “the feed and care bestowed.” See Indiana Code § 32-33-8-1. The stable owner need not file anything to assert the lien—it happens automatically when the boarding fees are not paid.
The Indiana Code does not say what happens next. So while obtaining the lien is easy, how to collect on the lien is not as clear cut. But at some point, the horse’s owner will most likely want to ride, use, or remove the horse. At that time, the lien will need to be paid or, presumably, the horse will stay put. A more difficult question arises as to whether the stable owner can sell the horse to pay the lien. You should consult an attorney before selling someone else’s property to satisfy a lien.
The stable owner’s lien statute also applies to “cattle, hogs, and other livestock.” Farmers who custom feed cattle, for example, can also assert a lien if the feed bill is not paid. The statute isn’t perfect, but it does give those livestock caretakers who aren’t getting paid some leverage to see that they do.
Todd Janzen grew up on a Kansas farm and now practices law with Plews Shadley Racher & Braun LLP, which has offices in Indianapolis and South Bend. He also serves as General Counsel to the Indiana Dairy Producers and writes regularly about agricultural law topics on his blog: JanzenAgLaw.com. This article is provided for informational purposes only. Readers should consult legal counsel for advice applicable to specific circumstances.
Submitted by: Todd J. Janzen, Plews Shadley Racher & Braun LLP