RSPCA Victoria’s Inspectorate executed a warrant seizing 109 horses from two Campaspe properties.
The major seizure comes after RSPCA Victoria successfully prosecuted the owner. The successful prosecution resulted in a ban from owning or being in charge of any horses for three years due to failing to provide veterinary treatment and sufficient food.
The man was afforded three months to comply with the disqualification order issued by his Honour, Magistrate Ian Watkins in the Shepparton Magistrates Court in September 2023, however upon checking this compliance Inspectors instead found the owner had purchased additional horses.
In managing the case, RSPCA Victoria has been, and will continue to be, supported by Racing Victoria with registered thoroughbreds; a subset of the horses seized.
Speaking about the seizure RSPCA Victoria’s Chief Inspector Michael Stagg said it should send a strong message to those who think they’re above the law.
“If you want to own an animal in Victoria, you must take care of that animal,” Chief Inspector Stagg said.
“In this particular case, it’s incredibly disappointing to see someone not only fail to provide that care to so many horses despite orders to do so, but blatantly disregarding a court order as well.
“These horses will now receive the veterinary care they need, and we’re hopeful some will be able to be adopted while others may be suitable for rehoming via one of Racing Victoria’s post-racing programs.
“This has been a massive operation for us, and I’d like to extend my thanks to all the RSPCA Inspectors involved, and also extend our thanks to Racing Victoria for their assistance.”
Racing Victoria’s General Manager, Equine Welfare, Melissa Ware, said: “Horse welfare is a non-negotiable and we continue to work with and support RSPCA Victoria on investigations involving registered thoroughbreds.
“Whilst the individual was not a licensed participant, Racing Victoria Stewards took disciplinary action against them in their capacity as an owner and breeder with a disqualification imposed by the independent Victorian Racing Tribunal earlier this year.
“Once the RSPCA have completed their veterinary assessments, we’ll work with them to assess the suitability of the registered thoroughbreds, which form a subset of the horses seized, to enter one of our post-racing programs that include rehabilitation, retraining and rehoming.”
Victorians made 1,000 reports of animal cruelty concerning more than 6,300 horses of varying breeds across the state to RSPCA Victoria in 2022/23.
The majority of cruelty reports related to underweight horses, husbandry issues (grooming, farrier, poor hygiene and living conditions etc) and insufficient treatment of a sick or injured animal. Insufficient food, shelter and water made up the next three most common cruelty reports.
The top three LGAs for reports of horse-related animal cruelty were:
- Yarra Ranges Shire Council – 73 reports
- Cardinia Shire Council – 66 reports
- City of Greater Bendigo – 56 reports
Helping these animals back into good condition often takes weeks or, in most cases, months, with horses spending on average 262 days in RSPCA’s care.
This kind of care is expensive; the RSPCA spends around an average of $18,000 per horse to get them healthy and well enough for their new home.
Concerns regarding the horses at this property were raised from a community cruelty report, with Inspectors attending the property and subsequently charging the owner with animal cruelty offences.
As in this case, reports from the community are vital to ensure animal cruelty and neglect are investigated.
It’s an offence under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (POCTAA) to commit an act with the result that unreasonable pain or suffering is caused to the animal.
Anyone found guilty of such an act can face fines of up to $48,077.50 or 12 months imprisonment.
Anyone with concerns for the welfare of an animal, aware of illegal breeding, or suspicious animal sales is encouraged to contact RSPCA Victoria on 03 9224 2222 or submit a report at rspcavic.org/cruelty-report/ immediately.