Thursday 22 August 2019

Renowned racing vet pleads guilty to four charges over illegal medication

Equestrian vet Tim Brennan
Equestrian vet Tim Brennan

Ralph Riegel

One of Ireland's top equestrian vets has pleaded guilty to possession of unauthorised animal medications.

Tim Brennan (44), who is the vet for the renowned racing stables of champion trainer Willie Mullins, pleaded guilty to four charges at Kilkenny District Court.

The charges, brought under Animal Remedy Regulations, followed a joint operation by the Department of Agriculture and the Turf Club.

Mr Brennan, of Mill House, Upper Grange, Gowran, Co Kilkenny, pleaded guilty to three charges of having possession of unauthorised animal medications and one charge of failing to keep proper animal remedy records.

The authorities had previously clarified that Mr Mullins and his stable were in no way linked to the proceedings.

Judge Michael O'Shea was told by Philip Sheahan BL, for the State, the charges arose from an inspection on February 9, 2015.

Department veterinary inspector Louis Reardon was undertaking a routine inspection at the Bagenalstown, Co Carlow, stables of Mr Mullins that day.

"He (Mr Brennan) just happened to be there. It was a coincidence. We were not expecting to meet Mr Brennan," Mr Reardon said.

Some medications from the vet's van were sent for analysis.

It transpired the treatments involved Catosal, Hemo 15 and Quinidine Sulphate.

They are variously used to treat conditions in horses ranging from anaemia to circulation problems. All are subject to license in Ireland.

Mr Reardon said Mr Brennan co-operated fully. In a follow-up interview on April 20, the vet "made full and frank admissions".

Stephen Lanigan-O'Keeffe SC, for Mr Brennan, said the offences were technical breaches rather than anything more substantive.

He said Mr Brennan, like other top Irish horse racing vets, would often attend to horses at overseas race meetings.

On these occasions, medications might be sought from local vets who were colleagues or professional associates.

These drugs are supposed to be disposed of before the vet returns home but, on some occasions, they forget to do so.

Mr Lanigan-O'Keeffe offered defence evidence from John Halley whose firm provides expert veterinary services to Ireland's leading racing operation, Ballydoyle Racing and Coolmore Stud.

Mr Halley said vets should have "housekeeping" arrangements so that all medications obtained for regular racing duties overseas are properly discarded before returning home.

Mr Lanigan-O'Keeffe said his client had clearly only been involved in a technical breach of regulations.

"These are products which Mr Brennan could have had had he done his paperwork," he said.

Mr Lanigan-O'Keeffe pointed out that Mr Brennan now faced a full fitness to practice inquiry by the Irish Veterinary Council.

He had also been exposed to extensive media coverage surrounding the case.

"It was made clear that, as for Mr Mullins, there was nothing there to see. For Mr Brennan, there is also nothing there to see," he said.

Mr Lanigan-O'Keeffe asked the court to deal with the matter via a €1,000 donation by his client to the injured jockeys fund.

"These offences are undoubtedly at the lower end of the scale and are purely regulatory. It was inadvertent on Mr Brennan's part," Judge O'Shea said.

He applied the Probation Act which means Mr Brennan will not have a conviction recorded.

He allowed €1,150 in witness expenses but refused to make an order as to costs in favour of the State.

Irish Independent

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