Melbourne man pleads guilty to Kerang animal cruelty charges

THE director of a sheep rearing business will be sentenced in April after pleading guilty to numerous animal cruelty charges.

Paul Matthew Hamilton, 56, of Ascot Vale, pleaded guilty to a consolidation of charges under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986.

These charges included aggregated individual charges and five charges involving failure to feed, treat and drive unfit sheep.

Mr Hamilton was also charged with breaching banning orders in Victoria and New South Wales.

The charges stem from a Department of Environment and Primary Industries investigation in Genelink - a business that oversaw 2200 sheep that were administered with hormones aimed to produce up to three lambing seasons across a two-year period.

DEPI staff found Mr Hamilton, who had previously been banned in New South Wales and Victoria from owning or managing livestock, was working at two Gannawarra properties - one on Schwenkes Road and the other on Brays Road - during a 10-day investigation in July 2012.

DEPI staff found 44 sheep across the two sites were dead or dehydrated and had to be euthanised. Others had drowned or were suffering hypothermia after entering an irrigation channel at the Brays Road site.

On another occasion during the 10-day investigation, 1000 sheep that were in no condition to be moved were herded from one property to the other.

The offences occurred during a period where Mr Hamilton was bound to adhere to New South Wales and Victoria penalties banning him from owning or managing animals, with New South Wales penalties in place until 2018.

"Staff members had in fact told Mr Hamilton about their concerns regarding the condition of the stock during a meeting in June," DEPI legal representative, Peter Matthews said.

"He did not address these concerns, and a number of sheep died until after improved husbandry conditions occurred after the investigation concluded."

Mr Hamilton said during a pre-sentencing hearing at the Kerang Magistrates' Court on Wednesday that the site had been left without a site manager four weeks before the investigation after the person went on leave.

"All of this could have been avoided if I avoided my stakeholders, but I believed I had the capabilities to address these matters," he said.

"Out of severe remorse and out of personal control of the crisis, from June 15 to July 9 I took every effort to drench, fence and feed the sheep, as well as assist DEPI regarding the information they needed."

Magistrate Peter Mealy adjourned the matter until April 24, to be heard at the Melbourne Magistrates' Court.

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