A man accused of setting up a veterinary practice under a false registration has been arrested. Russell Oakes registered with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) in November 2006 and began practising from an equestrian yard at Warren Farm, Formby, Merseyside, at the end of last year.

He was already known within the equestrian community as an osteopath, but when local vets noticed inconsistencies concerning the standard and quality of work as a vet, they queried his registration with the RCVS.

“We had concerns from the day he set up the practice [Formby Equine Vets],” said Seamus Miller MRCVS, equine vet with the Rufford Veterinary Group in Lancashire. “It’s inconsistent that someone would suddenly bring up a five-year degree while working as a ‘back man’. We were most unhappy and contacted the RCVS to ascertain his provenance.”

Mr Miller said the RCVS initially seemed unconcerned because the man was officially registered with the body. But he and three other local vets persisted. It was discovered that Mr Oakes had registered using a forged Australian degree. The RCVS then took the matter to the police.

RCVS spokesman Ian Holloway said: “The police arrested Russell Lewis Oakes on Saturday, 1 March and are investigating our complaint.

“In addition to the police action, the RCVS is taking formal steps to review the alleged fraudulent registration.”

Merseyside Police would not reveal the bogus vet’s identity, but confirmed: “We arrested a 41-year-old man on suspicion of fraud and forgery. He was released on unconditional police bail.”

Mr Oakes has not yet been charged. Police said it would take around two months to put a case together.

A police spokesman, who would not reveal specifics of the case, admitted: “There are a lot of victims.”

H&H attempted to contact Mr Oakes but he would not return our calls.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (20 March, ’08)