Man got 'unauthorised' medicines for pigeons
Businessman was not aware he was breaking law by ordering online
An Arklow businessman pleaded guilty to the possession of medicines for the treatment of pigeons without a licence at Arklow District Court last week.
Charges were brought against Sheldon Leonard, 16 Abbey Heights, Arklow, and Direct Pigeon Supplies, Mine View, Tigroney West, Avoca, by the Department of Agriculture. They were dated August 7, 2014 and included 12 counts of possession of an animal remedy without authorisation.
The matter had been previously adjourned so that representatives from the Department could attend court to outline why the offences were of concern.
Investigating officer Brendan Daly gave evidence that the matter first came to his attention when a parcel, sent through An Post for the accused, was seized by customs.
He said that it contained a 'relatively substantial amount of unauthorised medicine' in liquid and powder form.
He said that Mr Leonard accepted responsibility for the items and said that some products had been sold and used on his own pigeons without the possession of a wholesale licence.
Mr Daly said that to the best of his knowledge pigeon groups are not currently regulated in Ireland.
Ms Caroline Garvey, veterinary inspector in the medicines division at the Department was the second State witness and outlined that remedies, such as those found in Mr Leonard's possession, must be authorised in order to ensure that are safe for animal and public health.
She said that strict guidelines must be met to avoid risk of contamination.
Ms Garvey added that if the Department was seen to be allowing the use of unauthorised medicines, there would be 'serious reputational consequences' for an export-dependent country such as Ireland.
The court heard that the majority of the medicines seized were antibiotics, which should only be administered by veterinary professionals and which require a prescription.
Ms Garvey also said that the overuse or misuse of such medicines could lead to resistance which in turn could affect human and animal health.
'These remedies should never be used as a first line of treatment,' she said. 'Antibiotics are available in Ireland to treat pigeons but a prescription must be obtained from a vet,' she said.
She refuted the suggestion from defence solicitor David Tarrant that his client resorted to ordering supplies online as he found it difficult to engage a vet with the relevant expertise to treat his pigeons.
'I can think of three vets off the top of my head, so that it not a relevant argument,' Ms Garvey replied.
In evidence, Mr Leonard told the court that he had been in business for 38 years and took the health of his pigeons very seriously.
Mr Tarrant produced a UK magazine praising the defendant for his work with pigeons and said he was well respected in the industry.
Mr Leonard said that he attends trade shows all over Europe where such medicines can be freely purchased and that he engaged the services of a vet in Belgium to get prescriptions for the medicines purchased.
He said that the company from which he purchased the medicines sent him an alternative product due to a shortage of stock, which was in the seized parcel.
He disagreed with Ms Garvey and said that he could not find a suitable vet in Ireland which is why he turned to a Belgian professional.
'Irish vets don't have the knowledge about racing pigeons. You can't race a pigeon without a proper vaccine. I have to have every bird vaccinated before I can race it. Some of them are worth up to €20,000,' Mr Leonard said.
He added that he wasn't aware that he was breaking the law by purchasing the medicines from abroad.
He said that after he got the prescriptions from Belgium, he ordered the items from South Africa as they are cheaper there, but it was outlined in court that only medicines licenced in Ireland can be used.
Judge David Kennedy said that the defendant 'appeared to have the pigeons' best interests at heart'.
He did not impose any fines but ordered costs to be paid in the sum of €4,900.