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Bogus vet receives 12 month prison sentence

20 August 2007

Following a 12-month undercover investigation by the BBC, a Lincolnshire man who posed as a veterinary surgeon over a number of years was sentenced to 12 months in prison at Lincoln Crown Court today.

Leonard French was secretly filmed selling unlicensed veterinary medicines to an undercover reporter from BBC Look North and administering medicines to a dog.

The BBC reported that Mr French had been illegally importing veterinary medicines from Russia, France and the US and was said to have made £170,000 from their sale to dog owners, companies and hunts.

Amongst a total of 20 charges, to which he had earlier pleaded guilty at Grantham Magistrates’ Court, Mr French admitted that he had also “held himself out as a practising vet or as being prepared to practise veterinary surgery without being registered”.

The RCVS had assisted both the BBC investigation and the subsequent court hearing in supplying statements to the effect that Mr French was not, and had never been registered as a veterinary surgeon with the RCVS.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s consumer affairs programme You and Yours today, RCVS President Bob Moore said that it was very worrying that Len French had managed to continue his illegal trade even while he was being investigated.

“We take such issues very seriously, even though we can’t actually take action against people who are not members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons,” he said.

He then highlighted how the unqualified use of potentially very potent medicines could cause significant animal welfare concerns, whilst any illegal supply of medicines to food-producing animals could also have serious public health implications.

Asked whether illegal veterinary practice was a widespread problem, Dr Moore indicated that it wasn't. “There have been three cases in the last five years of non-vets holding themselves out to be a veterinary surgeon that we know about. We can only assist the authorities when we know about it," he said.

He went on to explain how animal owners could play their part in identifying illegal veterinary practice, saying: “Part of the responsibility of being a pet owner or animal keeper is that you use medicines that are properly licensed and authorised in the UK and use the facilities that are provided by veterinary practices.”

Anyone wishing to check whether a veterinary surgeon is qualified and registered with the RCVS should contact the College on 020 7222 2001, or check the register.

View the BBC report






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