CONTROVERSY surrounds the deaths of hundreds of chickens with Moyne Shire Council investigating claims of animal cruelty at two properties belonging to Alan “Swampy” Marsh.
Mr Marsh flatly denies the allegations and says the council is doing all it can to cover its own tracks. He alleges its bylaws officers left open a mesh fence, allowing dogs to later enter and fatally maul 950 birds.
So far three government bodies have been involved in investigations into the alleged deaths of about 500 chickens.
The Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) was notified of potential animal welfare concerns relating to chickens at Mortlake last week.
A spokeswoman said the owner was contacted to discuss the issue.
“DEPI staff were satisfied there was no ongoing concern for the welfare of the chickens and there will therefore be no further investigation,” she said.
Moyne Shire Council communication officer Tim Marshall yesterday said council bylaws officers visited Mr Marsh’s Townsend Street brooder shed in Mortlake on Monday last week after an animal cruelty complaint was received and found 250 dead birds. There were no issues at another address on Mortlake’s Purcell Lane but a further 250 dead chickens were found at a Purnim poultry farm.
Mr Marshall said because it was a commercial operation the matter was referred to the Department of Environment and Primary Industries.
He said the bylaws officers saw birds they believed were in distress because they did not have enough food, but Mr Marsh told them the cause was a disease.
“While inspecting the property the officers observed numerous dead chickens. Mr Marsh then arrived at the property and spoke to officers. He was shown where officers entered the property,” Mr Marshall said.
“When asked if he wished officers to secure the gap in the fence that was used by them to enter the property, he responded negatively.”
Mr Marsh has a different story. In yesterday’s The Standard, he claimed 950 chickens were killed by dogs at the Townsend Street shed last Saturday after the council officers failed to return a mesh fence to its original state after they had pulled it back to gain entry.
He said two Alaskan malamute dogs later entered the property and killed the birds, which would cost him $10,000 to replace and $30,000 in lost profits.
Mr Marsh called on the council to “severely sanction” the bylaws officers, apologise to him and demanded that its insurers pay him compensation.
Yesterday, Mr Marsh said claims he had told the bylaws officers that the chickens had died from disease and cruelty were “absolute lies”.
He said he was first told the officers had visited the property because of reports of chickens in a laneway. He said there were half-a-dozen dead chickens at the property but this was not greatly discussed with the bylaws officers. Mr Marsh said the matter was then reported to DEPI by the bylaws officers and DEPI representatives visited his Purnim poultry farm.
He said the DEPI representatives had a look at the property and could not see anything wrong.
“This is just them (the council) running around thinking of a new excuse to cover their s..t,” he said.
He said both Moyne councillor Jill Parker and a shire animal control officer had seen the dead chickens.
Mr Marsh said if he continued to get a negative response from Moyne Shire he would drop a bag of dead chickens at the front desk of the council’s Port Fairy office tomorrow.
RSPCA south-west inspector Hugh Robinson yesterday confirmed he was contacted by Moyne Shire bylaws officers and told them they could enter the property if they believed the birds were abandoned, distressed or disabled.
When told more than 500 birds had died, he instructed the bylaws officers the correct authority to handle the matter was the DEPI, he said.