Suspect admits to burglarizing veterinary clinics

Lured by value of flea-and-tick products

Published: April 18, 2017
By Edie Lau

Photo courtesy of
Knox County District Attorney General’s Office
Timothy G. Ross is serving a six-year prison sentence for his part in a string of veterinary clinic burglaries and robberies in 2015.

A man accused of breaking into veterinary clinics in three southeastern states has been convicted of burglary and robbery and sentenced to six years in Tennessee state prison, according to the Knox County District Attorney General’s Office.

Timothy Gayton Ross, 43, pleaded guilty Feb. 24 in Knox County Criminal Court Division III in connection with a break-in at Clinton Highway Veterinary Hospital near Knoxville on Sept. 19, 2015.

Clinton Highway was one of dozens of clinics in Tennessee, Kentucky and Georgia in which burglars stole pet flea-and-tick-control products, including Advantage, K9 Advantix, Bravecto, Comfortis, Frontline and Nexgard.

Ross’s lawyer, Rhonda Faye Lee, told the VIN News Service that the defendant did not fight the charges because “he wanted to take responsibility.”

Lee explained that Ross stole the pet parasiticides because "he had a drug addiction, and someone told him that was a way to get extra money." She added, "I guess there's a black market for the product."

Drugs and pesticides designed to prevent infestations of fleas, ticks, heartworm and other parasites in dogs and cats long have been sold through underground channels. The activity is driven in part by manufacturer policies of selling such products only through veterinary clinics. Retailers wanting a share of the sales apparently turn to third-party brokers who obtain product through what’s known as the gray market — gray because the channels are considered illegitimate but are not necessarily illegal.

Ross was apprehended by Knox County Sheriff’s Office officials after breaking into Clinton Highway Veterinary Hospital, which by the sheriff’s count was the 36th such burglary in six months in the region. Some of the clinics, including Clinton Highway, were hit more than once.

Sean McDermott, an assistant district attorney in Knox County, said Ross admitted to burglarizing 31 different clinics. In addition, he said, Ross has a record of property offenses, including vehicle burglaries and theft, dating back to 1992. He is imprisoned at the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex. McDermott said Ross will be eligible for parole review after serving 35 percent of his six-year sentence.

“This prolific offender with seven prior felony convictions stole tens of thousands of dollars' worth of medicine from dozens of veterinarians,” McDermott said. “He has earned every day of this prison sentence. I would urge veterinarians to keep this case in mind when they evaluate the security of their clinics.”

A second suspect in the clinic burglaries, Jason B. Leffew, pleaded guilty on Feb. 15 to burglary and possession with intent to sell a Schedule III drug, ketamine, McDermott said. Leffew was sentenced to six years — one year in county jail and the balance on state probation.

Dr. Angela Snow, owner of Clinton Highway Veterinary Hospital, expressed satisfaction about the arrests and convictions but she believes a ringleader is still at work.

In fact, she said, about two months ago, someone broke into the barber shop next door. She said investigators suspect the burglar was trying to find a route into the veterinary clinic, which now has sturdier security.

“They pulled the ceiling tiles and put a chair up, thinking they were going to climb up into the ceiling and get back over here,” Snow said. “Surprise, surprise, there’s a fire wall, and no way to get through.”

She said the investigator told her it couldn’t have been the same guys as before because they were in custody.

Snow wasn't surprised. “Those were just the street thugs,” she said “The guy at the top, he just hires some more street thugs, he don’t care. They’ll keep up with the thievery — just get more goons to get it for you.”

VIN News Service commentaries are opinion pieces presenting insights, personal experiences and/or perspectives on topical issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a commentary for consideration, email

Information and opinions expressed in letters to the editor are those of the author and are independent of the VIN News Service. Letters may be edited for style. We do not verify their content for accuracy.