I'm doing an internship at a vet clinic and there is a situation I'm wondering about and find rather strange. A client brought in a stray she had found and the clinic accepted that cat. Because the poor kitty is extremely skinny they did a bunch of tests on him and started treatment. Three days later the person who found the cat located the owners who had posted on some website when the cat went missing. It turns out he's been out for a month and a half and probably has not been able to feed himself which is why he's so skinny. The owners came into the clinic to get their cat, that they wanted, back but at this point a bunch of treatment had been done and the bill was $180. The clinic wasn't charging for everything they had done but they were charging for the testing and meds, I believe. The owners didn't have the money and somehow the cat was given up to the clinic. The owners were really sad about that but just couldn't come up with the money. The clinic rationalized keeping the cat when they couldn't pay the bill by saying that had he gone to a shelter there would also have been a fee to pick him up from there. But even if there was a fee it's not $180. The cat is being well cared for now and will be rehomed but I just think the whole situation is sad and unfair. I understand that it costs a lot of money to care for a cat and that at any time the cat could need $180 worth of vet care and if the owners don't have that then maybe they can't care for the cat. That is the opinion of the clinic anyway. But for a lot of people $180 is a lot of money and nothing they can just come up with just like that. In my opinion that doesn't mean that they can't provide a good home for THEIR cat. Ideally every pet should be in a home where the owners can afford needed vet care but I don't think that just because you don't have the money right now that you should not be allowed to get your cat back. They didn't ask for all that blood work and stuff to be done and I don't think they should be faced with having to pay it or lose the cat they've had for six years who they clearly missed and have looked for. This family is apparently an immigrant family who speaks limited English and I can imagine felt that they had no choice but to give up their cat. But I'm wondering if legally they would have a choice. This situation is settled. The cat is staying at the clinic for now. But I'm wondering if, in a situation like this, the owners would decide to challenge the clinic's demand to pay the bill or give up the cat if they could get their cat back? Can a vet legally refuse to give back a pet if the bill is not paid? Especially if the owners didn't authorize the bill to be run up in the first place?