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Jill Headford

Posted 25 September 2011
by Jill Headford

New pre-purchase vetting procedure

Glorious Indian Summer!  Early morning ride in the beautiful South Hams.  It is however a working day and sadly the office beckons so thoughts turn to horsey legal matters.  It has been quite a summer for horse sales going wrong.  An obvious precaution – for both seller and buyer – is a pre-purchase vetting.  But does that remove all the risk and will the new format of a pre-purchase vetting report introduced this month by the Veterinary Defence Society make any difference?  Most vets think not but I do wonder.The main differences are:

  • The vet has to say whether any stages of the standard examination procedure were omitted and give the reason why they were not done.
  • He also has to say what flexion tests were carried out and for what reason although, interestingly, he does not have to say how long he flexed each limb for.   He also has to specify whether the horse was trotted in a small circle on a firm surface and if not why not.
  • The blood sample section is as before, except that now the vet has to say why he did not take a sample if he didn’t.

Two things have now to be declared:

  • Is a the seller (or the selling agent) a client of the practice?  This covers not only the seller but also the livery yard owner or dealer selling on their behalf.
  • whether the horse has previously been attended by the practice?  The question is not whether the horse has been treated  but whether it has been attended which is wider.  It would, for example, cover a previous vetting.

These matters will obviously have to be checked out back at the practice before the vet sets off so vet practices may want to check their existing protocols.

  • If the horse has been attended by the practice before then the vet has to say whether the history known to him may, does or does not increase the risk of purchase.   Will vets be obtaining full client authority for disclosure of anything and everything relevant to the pre-purchase vetting will they simply decline to vet horses previously attended by their practice?
  • Identification and legal ownership are expressed to be nothing to do with the vet.
  • The notes on age are much the same but now “aged” means over 15 rather than 8 years.
  • The report finishes with the opinion of the examining veterinary surgeon and the declaration has subtly changed.  It used to say:

“on the balance of probabilities the conditions set out above are/are not likely to prejudice this animal’s use for [dressage]” but now it says:

“in my opinion, on the balance of probabilities, the conditions reported above do/do not prejudice this horse’s suitability for purchase to be used for [dressage]”

and I think the latter is slightly wider although the change is only likely to be noticed in Sale of Goods Act disputes for reasons which I will explain.  Another time.

Meanwhile, note that the new procedure is optional during a transitional period so if you are buying a nag and want a pre-purchase vetting, ask for it to be done under the new procedure.

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About the author

Jill Headford

Jill Headford

Partner and Solicitor

A partner in the firm since 1994 and an experienced Court and Tribunal advocate, Jill specialises in resolving disputes and is a member of the Property Litigation Association