17 April 2024

Investigations underway as 500 horses found dead on Wagga Wagga property

| Jarryd Rowley

Wagga Wagga City Council General Manager Peter Thompson has addressed the media about the discovery of about 500 horse carcasses on a property near Wagga Wagga. Photo: Jarryd Rowley.

More than 500 horse carcasses have been found on a property near Wagga following a joint investigation by Wagga Wagga City Council, the NSW Government and NSW Police.

Wagga Wagga City Council said hundreds of horses were found to have been butchered at the property before being dumped in a nearby dry creek bed.

The remains were found following an eight-week joint investigation after neighbours voiced their concerns about the smell.

The council complaint led to staff entering the property supported by members of NSW Police, the NSW Food Authority, Local Land Services, the Department of Primary Industries and Racing NSW four weeks ago.

Wagga Wagga City Council General Manager Peter Thompson, who was one of the council staff who entered the property, said the skeletal remains indicated that horses had been butchered over several years and served as part of an illegal knackery.

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“Once the inspection of the property commenced, it became clear that the slaughtering of horses had been occurring for a long period of time,” he alleged.

“Numerous separate dumps of carcasses were discovered at locations throughout the property.

“It is estimated that there are in excess of 500 horse carcasses. Some of these carcasses were no more than skeletal remains while others were killed relatively recently.”

Mr Thompson said the investigation, which was initially to confirm whether the carcasses had been left in the creek bed and possible offences under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act, showed that there was no concern about potential environmental contamination.

“Once the extent of the operation had been identified, NSW Police and other State Government agencies began collecting evidence for possible offences and regulatory actions under a range of NSW State Government legislation,” he said.

“[Contamination] is not a concern at the moment, in fact it is a dry water source and has no risk to the surrounding areas.”

Mr Thompson said there were no initial indications that the killings were linked with the ongoing controlled brumby shooting operation in Kosciuszko National Park nor to thoroughbred racing.

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“There was no evidence collected on the day that I’m aware of that point to racehorses being on the property, whether or not agencies at the state level have been able to investigate further and discover anything, I wouldn’t be aware of that,” he said.

“We’ve got no evidence at the moment of any particular cruelty to the horses, but bear in mind that’s not our area either.

“It would be a state government agency that investigates that particular issue in terms of the sheer number of large animal carcasses located in one particular location. I think this would be an extraordinary case.”

Mr Thompson said the information about the horse killings was due to become public in the coming weeks but due to a WWCC councillor releasing the confidential information to a Sydney radio show, the information was released earlier than hoped.

“In the future, it (confidential information) will be something that we will keep closer to the chest, which is disappointing,” he said.

“A lot of agencies came together to cooperate in ensuring that people who are doing an extraordinarily wrong thing have been identified and will be held to account.

“It’s disappointing that people who are investigating this in their professional roles have not been met with the same professional responsibilities.

“As a result here we are, answering questions before the process has even finished.”

WWCC would not comment on the location of the property.

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