Investigations are ongoing into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of 16 horses while being transported from Tasmania to Australia.

As it is an ongoing investigation, a spokesman for the Tasmanian department of primary industries, parks, water and environment said the cause of the deaths, late in January, could not be confirmed.

The horses were reported dead in mainland Australia, having travelled by ship to and from Tasmania for a polo match, is it understood.

“At this stage our department is investigating all the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the horses,” the spokesman told H&H.

“Examination of the evidence obtained at this stage indicates the deaths of the horses was an isolated incident and movement of horses across Bass Strait is safe to continue in line with animal welfare regulations and conditions of carriage when transporting horses.

“The department is confident that there is not an ongoing risk for the transport of horses across Bass Strait.”

The spokesman said inquiries will cover all aspects of the horses’ movements, and that pathology reports obtained by the department are “one part” of the overall investigation.

“While it is apparent this was an isolated incident, no information received to date points to a clear cause of mortality,” he added. “Some laboratory results that normally take extra time are expected to be received soon and may or may not contribute to understanding a cause.

“Like all animal health and welfare investigations conducted by the department, a standard process is being followed.

“In this case that includes attempting to determine the cause of death of the horses, whether there has been any contravention of Tasmanian legislation, and how such situations might be prevented in the future.

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“The department does not presuppose the outcome of any of its investigations and is unable to comment on whether charges are being considered or laid. Such matters, if and when they occur, are subject to normal judicial processes.

“When all factors in the matter have been considered and an outcome is known, the department will make information public if it is appropriate to do so in accordance with confidentiality and legal requirements.”

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