Illegal and a risk to horses: owners warned against importing unauthorised veterinary medication

  • Owners have been reminded that importing unauthorised veterinary medications is illegal – and not only poses a risk to horses, but could result in prosecution.

    The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) has reported four recent cases of equine products being seized by authorities. A respiratory supplement intended for an address in Norfolk and wormers intended for a residential address in Reading, which had been shipped from the USA, were seized at East Midlands airport. A skin balm shipped from Serbia and a joint supplement from the USA, both intended for residential addresses in Northern Ireland, were detained at a courier company in Belfast.

    All four products were not authorised for use in Great Britain or Northern Ireland and were not accompanied by any relevant certification to permit import.

    Importing unauthorised veterinary medication into the UK is illegal, and those that do so are liable for enforcement action from the VMD, which may include prosecution. The regulations give inspectors the power to seize “veterinary medicines, anything purporting to be a veterinary medicine, additives, premixtures or feeding stuffs”.

    “It is important to reiterate to horse owners that it’s a risky business to import any form of equine medication, not only because it is illegal, but also because it may put their horse at risk if they are using medications that are unauthorised in the UK,” Dave Rendle, former British Equine Veterinary Association president, told H&H.

    “Companies that are knowingly breaking the law can’t be trusted to be selling what they say they are selling,” he said. “Some medications may appear to be the same as those you can purchase in the UK, but there can be subtle differences in how they are prepared, which might render them less effective, or even ineffective, and therefore a waste of money.”

    Mr Rendle added that it is also “important not to buy medicines that have not been prescribed by a vet following a veterinary diagnosis”.
    “You could be giving your horse a well-intentioned ‘treatment’ which may be inappropriate for your horse and may cause serious harm,” he said.

    A VMD spokesman told H&H that imported unauthorised veterinary medicines are “more likely to be counterfeit or even linked to organised crime”.

    “That is why our inspectors actively carry out seizures across the country. Anyone caught importing an unauthorised veterinary medicine faces prosecution, for which there is no maximum fine on summary conviction,” he said.

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