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Truckies and ferry firm on pony death charges

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Charges have been laid over the deaths of 16 polo ponies found after a ferry crossing of Bass Strait in January last year.

The charges, announced yesterday, under Tasmania’s animal welfare laws, are against the ­alleged drivers of two horse trucks and the state-owned ferry company, TT-Line.

“The charges were brought following an investigation by the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment in relation to all aspects of the transport of the horses from Barnbougle in Tasmania’s north to Victoria,” the department said in a statement.

“There are additional charges in relation to unaffected horses transported during the same period that were not individually stalled. Charges have been laid against the drivers of the horse transports and also against TT-Line Company Pty Ltd.”

Despite the charges, the ­department said it did not ­believe there was any “ongoing risk” for any horses transported across Bass Strait “in line with regulatory standards”. The charges related to “a specific set of circumstances” in the transpor­tation of the ponies between January 28 and 29 last year, it said.

TT-Line said it would “vigorously defend” itself. “We have been working closely with Bio­security Tasmania for many months on animal transport and are surprised by the charges,” said chief executive Bernard Dwyer.

“We note the comments made by Biosecurity Tasmania immediately after the incident that the department was confident that there was not an ongoing risk for the transport of horses across Bass Strait and that it was an isolated incident.”

Mr Dwyer said the safety and reliability of the Spirit of Tasmania for passengers and freight “had always been, and would continue to be of critical importance to the company”.

Polo identity Andrew Williams last year launched a civil claim for damages over the pony deaths against TT-Line and logistics company QUBE Holdings, which both denied culpability. The charges against TT-Line and the driver of the vehicle in which the horses died are made under section 7 of the Tasmanian Animal Welfare Act 1993. They allege “use of a method of management … reasonably likely to cause unreasonable and unjustifiable pain and suffering to an animal or group of animals”.

A further charge under the Tasmanian Animal Welfare (Land Transport of Livestock) Regulations 2013 alleges failure to ensure that horses being transported across Bass Strait were individually stalled.

The driver of a second ­vehicle, in which no horses died, is facing charges under the same Tasmanian Animal Welfare Regulations of allegedly failing to ensure horses being transported across Bass Strait were individually stalled.

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