Spirit of Tasmania operator TT-Line has entered pleas over allegations of failing to properly transport 16 polo ponies that were found dead.
Spirit of Tasmania operator TT-Line has entered pleas over allegations of failing to properly transport 16 polo ponies that were found dead. Ellen Keidge, Still Free Photography

Shipping firm faces court over pony deaths

TT-Line has pleaded not guilty to a number of animal welfare charges following the deaths of 16 polo ponies after a Spirit of Tasmania voyage from Devonport.

The ship operator entered its plea through a legal representative in the Devonport Magistrates Court today after it was charged by Biosecurity Tasmania under Tasmania's Animal Welfare Act in June.

The charges came after a long investigation by Tasmania's Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, which looked at how the horses had been transported to Victoria.

The ponies were found dead by professional polo player Andrew Williams, who owned seven of the animals, when he opened the float he was driving at a property in regional Victoria during January 2018.

SIXTEEN PONIES DIE IN TRANSIT

They had competed at the annual Barnbougle Polo Tournament, north of Launceston, and were to be transported back to New South Wales.

Today, TT-Line denied one count of using a method likely to result in unreasonable and unjustifiable pain and suffering, and 28 counts of failing to ensure the creatures were individually stalled, before Magistrate Leanne Topfer.

The company has previously said it would "vigorously" fight the accusations, was "surprised" by the charges, and had worked closely with Biosecurity Tasmania after the incident.

Last month, Mr Williams pleaded not guilty to one count of using a method likely to result in pain and suffering, and 16 counts of failing to ensure the horses were individually stalled.

Fellow horse truck driver Thomas Martin also pleaded not guilty, denying 12 counts of failing to ensure the horses were individually stalled.

MEN PLEAD NOT GUILTY TO CHARGES OVER PONY DEATHS

Mr Williams, his company Willo Polo and his employer Twynam Agricultural Group are also suing TT-Line for negligence, claiming $739,000 in losses.

The matter is due to go to mediation in Melbourne in July 2020, but if that fails will be heard at a 10-day trial starting the following month.



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