2 May 2024

'Are you kidding?' RSPCA found no breaches of animal welfare during previous visits to illegal knackery

| Jarryd Rowley
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Member of the NSW Legislative Council Wes Fang has questioned the leadership of RSPCA NSW. Photo: Wes Fang.

Wagga-based member of the NSW Legislative Council Wes Fang has been left dumbfounded after the RSPCA declared there were no breaches of animal welfare at a Wagga property where more than 500 horses were found dead.

RSPCA NSW CEO Steve Coleman appeared in front of a NSW Legislative Council inquiry last week, which focused on the organisation’s two previous investigations into a Wagga property where an illegal knackery was uncovered by Wagga Wagga City Council back in March.

During questioning of Mr Coleman, it was revealed that the RSPCA investigation team visited the property twice in the space of four months – once in September 2023 and again in January 2024 – before WWCC’s investigation. However, despite finding “remnants of skeletons” and concluding its investigation, the RSPCA found no animal welfare concerns.

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“There were allegations of an illegal knackery and we have put questions to the person of interest, all of which have been denied,” Mr Coleman said.

Mr Coleman explained that aside from complaints about horses, the RSPCA also received a number of complaints about the welfare of dogs on the property. Upon completing its investigation, the RSPCA concluded that everything was considered to be in reasonable condition.

Mr Fang, who was leading the inquiry’s questions, asked Mr Coleman if he was serious.

The inquiry continued with questioning in relation to the ongoing aerial shooting of wild horses in Kosciuszko National Park and the potential implementation of cameras monitoring the reserve.

During a previous brumby inquiry, the RSPCA approached several national parks about the potential use of 360-degree cameras during cullings, which the parks denied. During the inquiry, Mr Fang pushed for new information about potential progress into the use of cameras. Mr Coleman said there had only been minimal discussions.

Mr Fang was clearly frustrated by the response, leading to him expressing his doubt over the leadership of RPSCA NSW and calling Mr Coleman a scapegoat for the activity undertaken at national parks.

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“I’ve never seen an organisation this badly run,” Mr Fang said.

“Mr Coleman, you’ve been there [at the RSPCA] for 30-something years, I think the RSPCA needs new leadership. I am not confident you are the right person to be leading the RSPCA.”

Following the completion of the inquiry, Mr Fang took to social media where he called for the board of RSPCA NSW and the NSW Government to look into the senior management of the organisation.

“The reliance on an organisation which has statutory enforcement powers, yet conducts themselves in this manner, is incredibly concerning,” Mr Fang posted.

“The RSPCA has the power to be Judge, Jury and Executioner for so many farmers and businesses in our regional, rural and remote communities.

“I have rarely experienced an organisation so full of obfuscation and avoidance, determined to not answer questions or provide transparency.”

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