Top equestrian vet pleads guilty to possession of unauthorised animal medications
- Tim Brennan (44) is the vet for multi-title winning racing stables of champion trainer Willie Mullins
- Brennan pleaded guilty to four charges at Kilkenny District Court today
- Charges included three charges of having possession of unauthorised animal medications and one charge of failing to keep proper records in respect of a named animal remedy
- Search of van happened 'by coincidence', court heard
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 multi-title winning 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 records in respect of a named animal remedy.
Ten other charges were struck out at the agreement of the State.
The Irish authorities had previously clarified that Mr Mullins and his stable of champion race horses were in no way connected or linked to the proceedings.
Judge Michael O'Shea was told by Philip Sheahan BL, for the State, that the charges arose from a Department operation on February 9 2015.
Department veterinary inspector, Louis Reardon, said he was undertaking a routine inspection at the Bagnelstown, Co Carlow stables of Mr Mullins that day.
Mr Brennan happened to be there on that occasion and, following a conversation, Mr Reardon asked to inspect the vet's van.
On inspecting the van, he found what he suspected were a number of unauthorised animal medications.
"He (Mr Brennan) just happened to be there. It was a coincidence. We were not expecting to meet Mr Brennan," Mr Reardon said.
The medications were seized and sent for analysis.
It later transpired that the treatments involved Catosal, Hemo 15 and Quinidine Sulphate.
They are variously used to treat conditions in horses ranging from anaemia to circulation problems.
The substances are used routinely in some European countries.
However, all are subject to license in Ireland.
In certain cases, if the drugs are over-used they can offer a performance enhancing benefit and speed recovery from exercise or injury.
Mr Reardon said that Mr Brennan co-operated fully with Department staff on all occasions.
In a follow-up interview on April 20, Mr Brennan offered full assistance to the authorities and "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 occasion, medications might be sought from local vets who are friends or professional associates.
These drugs are supposed to be disposed of before the vet returns home but, on some occasions, vets forget to do so.
Mr Lanigan-O'Keeffe offered defence evidence from John Halley whose firm provides expert equestrian veterinary services to Ireland's leading racing operation, Ballydoyle Racing and Coolmore Stud.
Mr Halley said Mr Brennan, like himself, routinely attends overseas race meetings as part of their duties and should have "housekeeping" arrangements so that all medications obtained overseas for regular duties are properly discarded before returning home.
"They are all therapeutic products which we would all use," he said.
Mr Halley said it was important to have procedures in place to discard of all such treatments before returning to Ireland.
But he said it was commonplace for Irish vets to borrow such treatments from overseas vets while attending foreign race meetings.
Mr Lanigan-O'Keeffe said his client had clearly been involved in a technical breach of regulations rather than anything more serious.
He said that, in a different world, the matter might have been dealt with via a simple reprimand.
"These are products which Mr Brennan could have had had he done his paperwork," he said.
He pointed out that the vet had co-operated fully with the authorities, made frank admissions and had entered a plea so as to save the State what had been expected to be a three day trial.
Mr Lanigan-O'Keeffe pointed out that Mr Brennan, because of his bureaucratic error, now faced a full fitness to practice inquiry by the Irish Veterinary Council.
He pointed out that he had also been exposed to extensive media coverage surrounding the case, particularly involving where the remedies had been recovered.
This has caused him substantial distress.
"It was made clear that, as for Mr Mullins, there was nothing there to see," he stressed.
"For Mr Brennan, there is also nothing there to see."
Mr Lanigan-O'Keeffe asked to court to deal with the matter, given the minor nature of what happened and his client's co-operation and plea, via a voluntary donation of Euro 1,000 to the injured jockeys fund.
However, the State applied for both costs and expenses.
Judge O'Shea said he accepted it was a minor matter.
"These offences are undoubtedly at the lower end of the scale and are purely regulatory," he said.
"It was inadvertent on Mr Brennan's part."
Judge O'Shea noted Mr Brennan's plea, his extensive co-operation and the fact there was absolutely no suggestion of aggravating factors being involved.
Mr Brennan also has no previous convictions.
He applied the Probation Act which means Mr Brennan will not have a conviction recorded against him.
He allowed Euro 1,150 in witness expenses but refused to make an order as to costs in favour of the State.
Judge O'Shea also declined to make any order as to the Euro 1,000 offered to charity by Mr Brennan.
He granted the State a forfeiture order as to the medications involved.