Can Debt Collectors Take Your Pets for an Unpaid Debt?

Len Burgess[1]

Len Burgess

Money Savings Advice Can debt collectors take pets

If you're in debt, the thought of losing your pet could cause unbelievable stress.

Fortunately, debt collectors can't take your pets or anything that counts as your pet's property. Your four-legged friends are safe from UK bailiffs.

Pets Are Listed As Essential Items

Debt collectors cannot take your pets or anything that would count as the property of your pet. Pets are on the list of essential items that bailiffs are not allowed to remove from your home.

Your pet is more than just a possession. Your pet is a member of your family, loved and cared for with their spot reserved in front of the fireplace each winter. Though your four-legged friend, cold-blooded companion or aquatic amigo may occasionally drive you to distraction, they're more than just a household decoration.

Fortunately, that's something that debt collection law can agree on.

Read on to learn more about debt collectors and what they can do if you've got pets.

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Can Debt Collectors Take Pets?

The law protects any non-human members of your family. If bailiffs or debt collectors visit you, they'll have no rights to claim your pets.

Usually, debt collectors will search your house for valuable items they can sell. It's their job to evaluate your property and see what can be used to clear your debt. Usually, the items they target are items of furniture, electronics and high-value home decorations. Debt collectors can also take control of assets like your vehicle or, in some circumstances, even the home that you live in.

They can't, however, take your pet. It doesn't matter if yours is a pedigree dog that could be sold for a small fortune – your pet is yours, and nobody can take it away.

Can Debt Collector’s Take a Pet’s Property?

Perhaps your pampered pet lives in a dog bed made of the world's most expensive material. Perhaps you raise reptiles in tanks with costly lighting or have tropical fish in an aquarium that cost a small fortune. Don't worry – everything's safe.

Debt collectors aren't just unable to take your pets away from you, but must also leave alone all those pet essentials that your animals need to live comfortably. They can't do anything to harm your pet, so they must leave you with everything you need to keep your animal completely safe and healthy.

Though debt collection agents must leave you with essentials, they do have some rights to take your pet's property if it's valuable enough and isn't essential for your pet's day-to-day care. It's rare for any pet care item to be both valuable and non-essential, so it's very unlikely that debt collectors will take anything belonging to your pet.

Keeping Pets Out of the Way

Your pets shouldn't get in the way of a debt collector doing their job. If you've got a dog that doesn't like to welcome strangers, you're responsible for taking control.

If a debt collector is entering your property, keep your pets out of the way. Avoid causing an obstruction that could reflect badly on you.

Debt collectors are there to do their job, and won't take too kindly to a dog that's barking loudly or nipping at their heels whilst they work. It's in your best interests to make their job easier and keep your pets under strict control.

The Costs of Pet Care

Whilst some pets are worth a lot of money, they also need ongoing care. Pet care can be expensive, with day-to-day costs as well as any vet bills and unexpected expenses. If you already have pets, they're probably high on your list of priorities. If you're struggling with debt, it's important to get help before it affects your animal – or human – dependents.

If you don't already have a pet but have been considering getting one, you should do a lot of research and consider the costs that are involved. Whilst debt collector can't take a pet; even if it's only been in the home for a matter of days, it's important to remember that taking on a pet is a huge responsibility for anyone.

Other Things Debt Collectors Can’t Take

Your pets aren't the only things bailiffs won't be able to take. If you're expecting a visit from a debt collector, it helps to be aware of your rights.

Debt collectors must leave you with all your everyday essentials. You can't be left without a bed, a fridge, a cooker or the other things you need. 

Debt collectors are not allowed to take property that belongs to somebody else. This rule covers others that live at your property and includes any children. Debt collectors are also unable to take things that you need for work or study. If something is needed for education or income, you'll be able to defend your right to keep it.

If bailiffs or debt collectors come looking for your property, be prepared to put up a respectful (non-physical!) fight. Gather evidence, like receipts and invoices, to show which items don't belong to you. Wherever you can, find proof.

Debt Collectors Taking the Wrong Things

If debt collectors do take anything they shouldn't, you have a right to complain. You'll need to be able to clearly explain why the item should not have been taken, as well as providing evidence that may help to back up your complaint.

You should start your complaint by contacting the bailiffs or the debt collection company. If they don't listen, you can contact the creditor that hired their debt collection services.

If a debt collector has taken property that belongs to somebody else, it's the genuine owner of the property that will be best placed to file the complaint.

Bailiffs and Debt Collector Statistics

According to a report by Citizens Advice, around 40,000 people have sought help with dealing with bailiffs. Also, of the 2.2 million people that were contacted by bailiffs over a two year period, 850,000 of those experience bailiffs breaking the rules.

Yet only 28% of those actually filed a formal complaint, and only 56 complaints have been made through the new court-based process that was introduced in 2014.

If you experience bailiffs and debt collectors breaking the rules, don't be afraid to make a complaint. You may feel like you're a guilty party for owing the debt, but that doesn't give them the right to flout the strict rules by which they must abide.

Debt Collectors and Household Pets

Debt collectors have no right to take a household pet, and they should also leave alone any items that are needed to care for your animals.

You can make the debt collection process easier for everyone by keeping pets out of the way. If you know that your pet could get in the way, try to find a way to secure him or her before you let the debt collectors in. Explain what's happening, so that the debt collector knows you're not trying to cause any trouble.

Your pets are classed as exempt property and aren't items debt collectors can take. This rule applies to any pet, from a goldfish right up to a high-value pedigree puppy. Instead, debt collectors will be on the lookout for a property that they can take and sell like collectables, electronics, furniture, art and non-essential appliances.

Dealing with a debt collector is always a stressful experience, but shouldn't be made worse by any concerns about the debt collector taking your pet. By knowing your rights, you can make sure that your pet stays safely at home.

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Money Savings Advice Author Len Burgess

Len Burgess

Len Burgess is a professional financial writer who over the last five years has written hundreds of articles for all financial sectors. Len founded Money Savings Advice with the aim of helping consumers navigate their way around the financial world by providing easy to understand financial information and matching consumers with the best financial advisor based on their personal information.

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