Ferry operator TT-Line has been found guilty of breaching animal welfare laws after 16 polo horses died onboard one of its ferries.
The horses were being transported aboard a Spirit of Tasmania ferry in a converted refrigeration trailer. Most were found dead on the morning of January 29, 2018. But two horses – named Scarlet and Delilah – survived.
As reported by the Guardian, the ponies had been “competing” in a tournament in Tasmania, Australia. They were traveling from Devonport to Melbourne.
TT-Line was found guilty of breaching 29 animal welfare laws. It was ruled that the company made no effort to ensure the horses were individually stalled, or that they had adequate ventilation.
The hearing began in August of this year. The court heard from an expert in live animal exports who inspected the trailer after the horses died. The expert reported that conditions may have caused the horses to “cook.”
“[It was] a warm evening where there was a clearly inadequately ventilated transport unit stationary for 10 hours,” said Tasmanian magistrate Leanne Topfer.
“There were too many horses in the unit and 16 horses were exposed to the risk of acute heat stress and asphyxiation and died from … respiratory failure.”
According to the magistrate, Scarlet and Delilah were towards the back of the trailer with better airflow. They were also apparently the only horses in stalls.
Former Australian polo captain Andrew Williams was involved in the horses’ transportation. According to Topfer, TT-Line relied solely on his declaration that ventilation was adequate.
TT-Line had pleaded not guilty to one charge of using a method of management reasonably likely to result in unreasonable and unjustifiable pain and suffering. It had also pleaded not guilty to 28 counts of failing to ensure a horse was individually stalled.
TT-Line is due to return to court on December 21 for sentencing.
Williams is also awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to 16 counts of failing to ensure a horse was individually stalled.
He pleaded not guilty to one count of using a method of management reasonably likely to result in unreasonable and unjustifiable pain and suffering.