Hunts the length and breadth of the country have been the unwitting victims of a bogus vet who offered to supply them with cut-price drugs.
Leonard French, who supplied medicines to UK hunts for up to three years, was jailed last month for a year.
French, 69, from Tattershall Bridge, Lincolnshire, was sentenced to 12 months in prison by Lincoln Crown Court on 20 August. He had previously pleaded guilty to a total of 20 charges at Grantham Magistrates Court, and admitted that he had held himself up as a practising vet or as being prepared to practise veterinary surgery without being registered.
His conviction comes following a year-long undercover investigation by the BBC, which reported that Mr French had been illegally importing vet medicines from Russia, France and the US, and was said to have made £170,000 from their sale to dog owners, companies and hunts.
The bogus vet was secretly filmed selling the unlicensed medicines to an undercover reporter from BBC Look North. French was also filmed administering medicines to a dog.
Director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA) Alastair Jackson told H&H that French had sold veterinary medicines to hunts the length and breadth of Britain, from Scotland to Cornwall. They had bought medicines such as wormers and penicillin from French, via mail order. While some had responded to advertising, other hunts had heard about his services via word-of-mouth.
Mr Jackson said: As soon as we heard about the investigation, we put out a message informing hunts that it was not legal to acquire prescription medicines from anyone other than a vet.
Qualified vets must be members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). RCVS president Bob Moore said illegal veterinary practice was not a widespread problem. There have been three cases in the past five years, he said.
To check if your vet is registered with RCVS (tel: 020 7222 2001).
This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (13 September, ’07)