The Spirit of Tasmania operator TT-Line and two horse truck drivers have been sensationally charged in relation to the death of polo ponies on board the Melbourne to Devonport ferry early last year.

The Tasmanian Government, which owns the Spirit of Tasmania, this afternoon released a statement saying charges had been laid under Tasmania’s Animal Welfare Act and Animal Welfare (Land Transport of Livestock) Regulations, following the deaths of 16 ponies that crossed the Bass Strait between January 28 and 29 last year.
Some of the polo ponies which died were elite sporting horses, worth more than $100,000 each.
One of the people charged is the driver of the float that the 16 ponies were on between January 28 and 29 last year.
The other is another driver, also transporting polo ponies on that trip, who allegedly did not have them individually stalled in the truck.

The health of those horses was not affected.
“Charges have been laid against the drivers of the horse transports and also against TT-Line Company Pty. Ltd,” the Tasmanian Government said.
“Although charges have been laid following investigation of the matter, they relate to a specific set of circumstances and the Department reiterates previous advice that there is no ongoing risk for the continued movement of horses across Bass Strait in line with regulatory standards.”

A spokesman for the Tasmania Government this afternoon said he would not name the drivers of the two horse trucks which had been charged.
In an exclusive interview with News Corp in August last year, the owner of a number of the dead polo ponies, Australian agribusiness king Johnny Kahlbetzer, said autopsies had revealed the horses died from lack of oxygen.
“We know the horses died on the boat and we know they died from lack of oxygen, suffocation. . . why, how, et cetera is still undetermined,” he said.
The multi-millionaire polo pony breeder – who is a member of one of Australia’s richest families - said he believed there was not enough “oversight” of animals travelling across Bass Strait on the Spirit of Tasmania.
Owners are not allowed on to the vehicle decks to check on their animals once the boat is underway but reassurances are given by TT Line, which operates the Spirit of Tasmania, that animals will be monitored and well cared for.
Mr Kahlbetzer said he had seen pictures of the dead horses in the truck they had travelled and died in “and it wasn’t pretty”.

Australian agribusiness king Johnny Kahlbetzer.Mr Kahlbetzer said he would not allow his horses to travel on the Spirit of Tasmania in the future, unless major changes were implemented in the way animals were cared for below deck.
“Not in the manner in which the Spirit of Tasmania transports horses currently, without clearly enough oversight, no I would not (let my horses travel on the ferry again),” Mr Kahlbetzer said.
The Tasmanian Government - which owns the booming, $232 million TT Line Spirit of Tasmania ferry service – also led the investigation into the horses’ deaths on the hot January night.
Nearly 450,000 people travelled on the Spirit of Tasmania in the 2016/17 financial year, many with animals.
The Spirit of Tasmania website states: “Freshwater is supplied and regular checks are performed on pets by crew throughout the sailing … for safety reasons, passengers are not permitted to access the vehicle decks to visit pets while the ship is at sea.”
Domestic pets must stay in special kennels below deck while on the boat, while large animals, such as horses, remain in their trucks, floats or trailers.
Tasmania RSPCA chief executive Andrew Byrne has called for improvements to the way animals are transported on the Spirit of Tasmania.
“It is the 21st century and I think we can improve the way pets are transported on the Spirit. I think they could do a better job and make the animals more comfortable,” Dr Byrne was reported as saying.
He added he would be reluctant to transport his own dog and two cats on the boat.