The owner of a Bass Strait ferry service being sued over the death of polo ponies on a trip from Tasmania to Victoria claims the horses’ co-owner, not them, was responsible for the animal’s welfare.
Sixteen prize ponies co-owned by polo identity Andrew Williams died on a truck travelling on the Spirit of Tasmania in late January.
He is suing the ferry’s operator TT-Line and freight operator QUBE Limited for negligence, arguing they failed to provide a safe environment for the horses.
Mr Williams, along with his partner Rebecca Williams, Twynam Agricultural Group and Willo Polo, want $739,000 in damages for the value of 13 of the horses and lost wages.
One of the specially bred horses, Felitas, was worth $120,000.
But in documents lodged in the Victorian Supreme Court and seen on Wednesday, TT-Line argues Mr Williams was responsible for the ponies’ well-being during the Bass Strait crossing.
They say Mr Williams failed to ensure the truck had the required number of stalls, adequate ventilation and was suitable for horse transportation.
TT-Line claims Mr Williams ought to have known he wouldn’t be able to inspect the horses once he left the truck below deck.
TT-Line argues it is not financially liable for the deaths as Mr Williams was on the ferry under a sponsorship agreement between the two parties.
QUBE Limited also disputes Mr Williams’ claims.
The horses were being taken from Devonport to Melbourne after the Barnbougle Polo tournament that is sponsored by TT-Line.
Tasmania’s Department of Primary Industries, Parks Water and Environment (DPIPWE) has refused to release the ponies’ autopsy results.
DPIPWE on Wednesday said results had been provided to the Department of Public Prosecutions.
“(DPIPWE) reiterates the earlier advice that the evidence indicates the deaths of the horses was an isolated incident,” it said in a statement.
“There is not a risk for horses transported across Bass Strait in accordance with regulatory animal welfare standards.”
A directions hearing for the case is expected in Victoria’s Supreme Court in late November.