‘Reckless’ owner fined after horses starve to death
A HORSE owner who failed to properly feed 21 of his animals leading to the starvation death of 14 has been fined $20,000 and banned from having more horses for 10 years.
Terence John Oberle, 74, had been working a cattle property north of Marlborough in Central Queensland while his 21 horses were left to starve in a bare, drought-effected paddock at Charlton in 2019, Toowoomba Magistrates Court heard.
While he arranged for water for his horses, he had neglected to arrange feed to be provided.
Told in November 2019 that the horses were in very poor condition, Oberle arranged to have 20 bales of low quality hay sent to Charlton.
He sent 20 bales of sugar cane tops to the property in late December and another 20 bales of a more nutritional hay in early January.
Fourteen of the horses had died of starvation with two in such poor condition that they had to be put down.
Oberle pleaded guilty to 21 counts of breaching a duty of care to animals.
Prosecutor Scott Seefeld, for the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, told the court the maximum penalty was a fine of $40,000 or one year in jail.
Oberle had worked with horses and cattle for 50 years and should have known the horses were in poor form.
Oberle's barrister Catherine Cuthbert said her client was on an age pension and wasn't paid a wage for work on the Marlborough property but received accommodation, electricity and water.
Her client ran by himself the 3439ha property which ran 800 cattle and because it bordered the Bruce Highway and cattle sometimes got onto the highway, the owner didn't let Oberle leave the property, she said.
However, he had made the 10-hour truck drive to Charlton to deliver hay which, though poor quality, was all he could source at the time.
The other seven horses had recovered well and her client maintained six horses which he needed for his livelihood, Ms Cuthbert submitted.
Magistrate Howard Osborne said the offending was serious.
"He demonstrated reckless disregard for the wellbeing of the horses," he said.
Mr Osborne fined Oberle $20,000, ordered he pay professional and court costs of $1603 and made an order prohibiting him from having any horses other than the six he currently had for the next 10 years unless he had permission from the department.
Originally published as 'Reckless' owner fined after 14 horses left to starve to death