Time to Get New Warning Signs: Equine Activity Act Amended in 2011

As of June 17, 2011, the Texas Equine Activity Limitation of Liability Act was amended to include most common farm and livestock animals. The new Act will now be called the “Texas Farm Animal Limitation of Liability Act.”

In short, the immunities related to damages arising from horse activities found in Chapter 87 of the Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code [formerly referred to as the “Texas Equine Activity Limitation of Liability Act”] now apply to all “farm animals”. A “farm animal” includes: an equine animal, a bovine animal, a sheep or goat, a pig or hog, a ratite [which, in case you have never heard of a “ratite”, includes an ostrich, rhea or emu], and a chicken or other fowl. 

The 82nd Texas Legislature [regular session] adopted amendments to the former Texas Equine Limitation of Liability Act through Senate Bill 479, the text of which can be found here. While most statutory amendments and new laws from the 2011 legislative session will not be effective until September 1, 2011, the amendments to the Act became effective “immediately” upon the requisite 2/3 vote in the Texas House on June 17, 2011.

The amended statute only applies to causes of action that accrue on or after June 17, 2011. 

Notable amendments to the Act include:

  • “Farm Animal Activities” now include rodeos, “events” in general, and “handling, loading, or unloading” a farm animal;
  • Providers of veterinarian and farrier services are now included in the definition of “Farm Animal Professional” ; and
  • The Chapter 87 warning sign language that is now required to be posted by “Farm Animal Professionals” is as follows:

WARNING: UNDER TEXAS LAW (CHAPTER 87, CIVIL PRACTICE & REMEDIES CODE) A FARM ANIMAL PROFESSIONAL IS NOT LIABLE FOR AN INJURY TO OR THE DEATH OF A PARTICIPANT IN FARM ANIMAL ACTIVITIES RESULTING FROM THE INHERENT RISKS OF FARM ANIMAL ACTIVITIES.

“Farm Animal Professionals” should post new warning signs containing the updated version of the Act’s warning language. See the link above to the newly-adopted language for the warning sign language and provide same to whomever you have make new signs for your property. It will probably be a while before signs containing the updated warning language will be mass-produced and sold at places like Tractor Supply Co., feed stores, et cetera.

Related Post: Victory for Texas Horse Industry in Texas Supreme Court

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Lien for Texas Large Animal Vets to Take Effect September 1, 2009

Beginning September 1, 2009, all large animal veterinarians in the state of Texas will have a lien on treated animals to secure payment of vet bills. This lien will be effective both before and after the animal is released to the owner.
 
Prior to the effective date of this legislation, veterinarians have no statutory lien on treated animals to secure veterinary services other than board. See "Liens for Veterinarians and Farriers in Texas" (February 18, 2008)

 

As of January 2009, twenty-eight other states provide veterinarians with a statutory lien. Texas's lien is unique in that it only applies to large animals (livestock) and is not purely possessory in nature (i.e. allows repossession after the animal is taken by its owner).

*The passage of this lien doesn't mean the vet "has" to take the treated animal as payment...it's just there as an alternative collections measure.*

The final bill (S.B. 1806, proposed by this firm and carried by Senator Judith Zaffirini) will be codified in Section 70.010 in the Texas Property Code.
 
This lien may give veterinarians some leverage in getting paid for their services, even if the lien is not ultimately enforced.
 

FACTS ABOUT THE NEW STATUTE:

1) The lien will only apply to amounts that become due to vets after September 1, 2009.

2) When the vet maintains possession of the animal, the vet's lien will have priority over all other liens.

3) Once the vet relinquishes possession of the animal, the vet's lien should be filed of record in the county where the services were rendered and with the Secretary of State.  The vet's lien, post possession, takes priority in the order of filing the notice, per Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code.

What Happens if Lien Foreclosure Sale Proceeds Not Enough?

In many cases, the proceeds from a stock breeder's or stable keeper's lien foreclosure sale will not be enough to satisfy your debt.  In those cases, you may sue the owner for the deficiency, if any.

The law suit may not be worth it, however, as you could end up spending more on legal fees than you are owed. For these reasons, I recommend that everyone who takes a horse to be boarded or bred obtain a written contract providing an agreement for the customer to pay for your services as well as the services of third parties for their horse's care while in your possession. 

Ideally, the agreement would include either 1) credit card information from the customer and an agreement that it will be charged for your services; or 2) the customer’s agreement that you may sell their horse at a public or private sale without notice to them if their account is in arrears more than 30 days.

This is especially important for farriers and veterinarians, as Texas law does not provide them any statutory lien to secure payment for their services.

Liens for Veterinarians and Farriers in Texas

Unlike many other states, Texas does not provide veterinarians or farriers with a lien on a horse to secure payment for professional services rendered. The stableman’s lien in Texas does provide a farrier or vet who had a horse in his or her care a lien on the animal for costs of boarding the animal. Also, both vets and farriers can obtain contracts with their customers providing for a contractual lien on the animal to secure payment for work done.