A Tatura horse breeder has escaped conviction but will be placed on a community corrections order after a court found he was responsible for the neglect of seven horses.
James Barry Martinek, 44, pleaded guilty to seven charges of aggravated animal cruelty, which led to the death of his seven horses.
Shepparton Magistrates’ Court heard that between January 22 and February 6 last year, Martinek had failed to supply sufficient drinking water for his horses.
He was given a two-year community corrections order with 200 hours of community work, and was not convicted of the charges.
Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources prosecuting lawyer Andrew Serratore agreed with a community corrections order instead of a prison sentence, because he said the act was not done maliciously, but rather out of negligence.
On February 6, DEDJTR investigators observed three horses stuck in the mud and silt of a dam bed, another three showed signs of being dragged into the dry dam and one had died where it fell. The department believed the horse had been dead for 36 hours before the inspection was made.
The report said although there was a lack of water, there was an adequate food supply. It claimed Martinek had last checked on the animals two weeks before their bodies were discovered and in that time it had rained only twice and the median temperature was 38.9°C.
Defence lawyer Brian Birrell said the horses drank water from a dam supplied by an underground aquifer, which had never before dried out.
Martinek urged Mr Birrell to submit a photo of the dam, which refilled following the death of the animals.
‘‘There is no point saying to the spirit of the horses, ‘if you only hung in there another week, you would have so much water you would have swum in it’,’’ Mr O’Callaghan said.
Mr Serratore said the maximum penalty for the charges was almost $500000.
Mr Birrell argued Martinek was bankrupt and the bank was pursuing him for $2.3million. He said Martinek’s horses were worth $150000 to $200000 each.
Mr O’Callaghan said he could not afford a fine because of his bankruptcy, and his family income was needed to support his children.
‘‘I couldn’t give a stuff if they are worth $2 or $200000, it feels a lack of water exactly the same way (as humans do),’’ Magistrate John O’Callaghan said.
‘‘You can’t say, ‘You think the horses have it tough? I lost $150000’.’’
Mr Birrell said when Martinek discovered the death of the horses, he was a ‘‘broken man’’.
‘‘These mares had produced foals, they were his only source of income,’’ he said.
Mr Birrell said Martinek had owned the horses for six to eight years and was attached to them.
‘‘When the vets arrived, he was devastated.’’
Mr O’Callaghan said when animal keepers imprisoned animals, they entered into a social contract with them to take care of their needs.
‘‘Otherwise they would be wild and find their own water,’’ he said.
No conviction was recorded.