Agistment in theory is an easy way to make money. But what
happens when the owner stops paying? Just because an owner no
longer takes an interest in their animal, doesn't mean that you
have to grin and bear it.
Lien and default notices
Under the Impounding of Livestock Act 1994 (the
Act) a landholder/agistment provider may claim a lien
over the horse if agistment fees are at least 14 days overdue. A
lien entitles the agistment provider to retain possession of the
horse until fees are paid. This prevents the owners from moving the
horse to alternative premises while fees remain outstanding.
It is a criminal offence under the act to remove or retain
custody of a horse over which a lien is held without the permission
of the lien holder. It should be noted however that the lien only
relates to the horse and not to any equipment stored at the
property. (NB the lien and default notice only
apply to unpaid agistment and do not include additional fees such
as training fees or competition costs.)
If the default continues, an agistment provider may then serve a
Default Notice on the owner, and if payment is not made within 28
days of the notice being served, the agistment provider is entitled
to exchange, dispose of or destroy the horse.
Should the owner make contact within this time, all outstanding
fees, plus any fees (including vet fees) incurred from the time the
notice is served plus costs must be paid by the owner before they
are entitled to take their horse back. If an owner objects to the
notice, an application must be made with the Victorian Civil and
Administrative Tribunal within the 28 days.
Due to the series nature of the Default Notice, we recommend
that both agistment providers and owners keep detailed records of
the agistment of the horses, including any verbal representations
made by either party.
A formal written agreement between the parties is always a good
start to any agistment relationship as the owner will be made aware
of the consequences of non-payment and both parties will agree on
the services to be provided.
Moreover, a written agreement may also be tailored to include a
lien over any tack or other equipment such as floats stored at the
property and may expressly include training and other costs as part
of the agistment fees. As noted above, the Act only applies to the
horse itself and as such, owners would be entitled to come and
remove their equipment unless expressly prohibited in an
An agreement should also include grounds on which the agistment
may be terminated, for example an owner's poor behaviour or
treatment of other horses agisted at the property.
Conversely, any owner looking to agist their horse should also
insist on an agreement between the parties being drawn up. This
will ensure that the expectations of both parties are met and that
any disputes may be dealt with efficiently.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.Madgwicks is a member
of Meritas, one of the world's largest law firm
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