A vet to a top show jumper’s horses has been found guilty of “disgraceful conduct” at a disciplinary hearing in London and struck off the professional register.

John Brennand Williams of the Avonvale Veterinary Practice, at Ratley near Banbury, Oxfordshire, certified that three horses — two ridden by Olympic show jumper Nick Skelton — were fit to travel to the US, despite not knowing the results of mandatory medical tests.

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) hearing last Tuesday was told that Williams signed documentation saying the horses, Centos, Russel and Namur 47, were clear of the venereal disease contagious equine metritis (CEM) before test results were back from the laboratory.

All stallions and mares travelling to the USA must be tested for CEM each time they travel.

Finding him guilty of “disgraceful conduct” in a professional respect, disciplinary panel chair Angela Bruce said: “Certifying matters which are not true must risk damaging the reputation of all veterinary certificates.”

Williams admitted signing the certificates before the test results were known, saying this was due to a lack of time before the horses were to leave for Washington.

There was no chance of the horses travelling before the test results were known as the paperwork has to be countersigned by a Defra vet, he said.

But he was caught out when the Defra vet queried why test results had not been attached to the certificates.

However, the horses were able to travel on a special waiver obtained by the transport agents from the USA authorities.

John Corless, solicitor for Williams, told the hearing that the vet’s conduct was not “far below” standards, adding that, when faced with the timetable, he had a “dilemma as to what he should do”.

The committee said they had taken into account that Williams had not sought to hide what he had done, but were aware that he had been suspended from his duties as a Defra-approved vet on three other occasions since 1989, for irregularities in export certification involving sheep, pigs and a racehorse.

Williams told the committee that while his actions may have been naive, he did not believe they amounted to disgraceful professional conduct.

He now plans to appeal.

Nick Skelton has stood by Williams saying it was “really just an accidental thing”.
“I’ve used him for 35 years and he’s a damn good vet and a good guy,” he said.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (22 November, ’07)