A man who let 14 horses starve to death on his drought-stricken Charlton property has been fined $20,000 and has been slapped with a 10-year horse ownership ban.
Terence John Oberle, 74, faced Toowoomba Magistrates Court on Tuesday on 21 counts of breaching a duty of care to an animal, during the period from August 2019 to January 2020.
Magistrate Howard Osborne fined Oberle $20,000 over the incident, which saw the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries discover 14 dead horses on the property on January 9, with seven more in an emaciated condition.
Oberle has also been prohibited from owning, buying or otherwise acquiring a horse for the next 10 years, with the exception of six horses that he already owns and uses for work.
The court heard that Oberle was working on a cattle property north of Marlborough at the time but while he made arrangements to have water pumped to the horses in his absence, he did not make any arrangements for them to be fed or otherwise cared for.
Magistrate Osbourne said neighbours noticed the horses were starving by November 2019, "emaciated and listless, some with bites on their bodies consistent with being bitten by other horses bullying over food".
"He demonstrated a reckless disregard for the wellbeing of the horses," he said.
Prosecutor Scott Seefeld, representing the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, told the court Oberle delivered low-quality hay to the horses in early November 2019.
"In the department's submission, he must have known the state of the horses and of the pasture at that time," he said.
"By the end of November 2019, at least one of those horses had died.
"It was then still a month until Mr Oberle delivered more food on December 7, again low quality."
Mr Seefeld said another delivery of "reasonable-quality hay" was made on January 3.
"The department would submit that whilst there were some quantities of low-quality food provided, that was nonetheless an inadequate response to his duty to provide food to those horses," he said.
Defence barrister Catherine Cuthbert said because of the frequency of cattle getting onto the Bruce Highway on the property where Oberle works, his employer had placed severe restrictions on his leaving the place.
Ms Cuthbert said Oberle delivered 20 round bales of Callide Rhodes hay in November and then managed to secure 20 bales of sugarcane tops in December.
"Mr Oberle's employer went overseas to China for the month of December and forbade him to leave the property because of this issue of cattle getting onto the Bruce Highway," she said.
"Despite the prohibition on him leaving, he managed to secure another 20 bales of cane tops and he loaded the truck on December 25, 2019.
"Mr Oberle did a round trip to return to the Marlborough property as soon as he could."
Ms Cuthbert said Oberle delivered a further large square bale of oaten hay in early January.
"Those were his efforts to get hay to the horses and it's not as though he did nothing, but he accepts the efforts were not sufficient nor was he able to secure hay of higher nutritional value," she said.
"In other words, he did what he could in the drought."
The fine was referred to the State Penalties Enforcement Registry.
Article courtesy of Australian Community Media and Queensland Country Life