IN THE NEWS: Knackery in 7.30 story was taken to court for animal cruelty last month

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IN THE NEWS: On OCT 23, 2019

A western Sydney knackery that the ABC's 7.30 program said was slaughtering racehorses was prosecuted for animal cruelty against cattle and a sheep only last month.

Key points:

  • Inspectors found dozens of cattle were in such poor condition, they had to be euthanased
  • Animals were found to be emaciated, injured or sick and weren't given treatment
  • The ABC has contacted the owner of Riverstone knackery for comment

Burns Pet Food at Riverstone pleaded guilty in Blacktown Local Court on September 19 to four counts of aggravated animal cruelty and one of failing to provide vet treatment, relating to 85 cattle and an injured sheep.

It was fined $13,500 and is now prohibited from stocking any more than 540 sheep or 54 cattle or horses for 10 years.

An RSPCA fact sheet, which was tendered to the court, details several inspections between February and July 2018, which found more than 80 emaciated cattle and an injured sheep, many of which were euthanased during those visits.

During one inspection, a sheep was found with a significant facial wound and erosion of the nasal cavity and palette, which the vet thought was from a dog attack or squamous cell carcinoma, and it was euthanased.

"The sheep had been suffering and in need of treatment for no less than two months," the fact sheet states.

Burns Pet Food was shown to be taking delivery of racehorses by the ABC’s 7.30 program last week, which detailed several horses which had been knackered in the past 10 months, including Tahitian Black which won $400,000 in prize money.

While slaughtering racehorses isn't illegal in NSW, it is against Racing NSW rules.

During a visit in February 2018, inspectors found two cows which were emaciated, covered in lice, extremely weak and unable to get up, with signs they had been there for some time.

"The inspector had immediate and serious concerns for the welfare of the animals and made multiple calls to local veterinary hospitals — during this time, one of the cows died," the fact sheet reads.

The other cow was euthanased by a police officer who came to the property. That officer also euthanased another cow that had been found in a "very poor state".

According to the fact sheet, owner Phillip Burns told the inspectors he had not wormed the cows and attributed their poor condition to the drought.

The inspectors also found a lame grey and white calf with a swollen right hind leg, and Mr Burns was instructed to get a vet to look at it and the rest of the herd.

When the RSPCA returned in July, the calf still had the injury and had not received any treatment from a vet.

During that visit, the inspectors also found a cow which was unable to stand or move its head, lying in a grassy area where effluent was being sprayed. That cow and another emaciated cow were euthanised.

'Almost exclusively' poor conditions

The fact sheet said Mr Burns told the inspectors he had not completed the directions from the last visit, partly because of rain, had not had a vet come to the property and was unsure if the injured calf belonged to him.

A vet was called to the property that day, finding that only a small number of the cattle had hay, the grazing pasture was poor, the property had far too many livestock on it and that the 100 head of cattle were "almost exclusively" in poor condition.

Upon leaving, the vet and inspectors found a third cow which had collapsed in a ditch full of effluent, with its nostrils just clear of the waste. It too had to be euthanased.

"[The vet] found all three cattle had been without proper or sufficient food for … no less than two months," the fact sheet said.

Another visit a week later found more than 30 cattle in such a poor condition that they had to be euthanased.

A sample of those were autopsied and found to have a variety of conditions including hypoglycaemia, jaundice, ataxia (loss of muscle control/balance), lice, intestinal worms, dental disease, pregnancy and diarrhoea.

A vet quoted in the fact sheet said one calf had been suffering from septicaemia for at least 24 hours, as a "direct result of poor husbandry, exposure, poor nutrition, stress and concurrent disease".

The vet also found all the under-nourished cattle would have been inadequately fed for 4-6 months to reach the condition they were in, and there had been a failure to get vet treatment for intestinal worms in some of the cattle for at least six weeks.

A few days later, 100 more cattle were examined and 41 euthanased due to their condition, with analysis finding many had suffered from significant levels of intestinal worms.

The RSPCA said it had not received any complaints since the prosecution was finalised in September and it understood the company was being wound up.

The ABC contacted Mr Burns for comment.

The RSPCA also confirmed it sent two inspectors to the other western Sydney knackery mentioned in the 7.30 expose, Luddenham Pet Meat, on Friday but they "found no significant issues of concern".

"RSPCA NSW has reached out to the ABC for more information regarding the vision used in the 7.30 report," a spokesperson said in a statement.

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