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Former Olympian wrestler charged over deaths of 23 horses

Melbourne: A former Australian Olympian wrestler and horse trainer was charged with animal cruelty after the discovery of 23 dead horses in Bulla, north of Melbourne, local media reported on Monday.

Bruce Akers, 63, was charged with 92 counts of animal cruelty and criminal damage offences after neighbours on Sunday found the decaying corpses of 22 horses on his property, as well as 22 other horses suffering from malnutrition, The Age newspaper reported. Another horse was put down, reports Efe.

Akers, who represented Australia as a welterweight wrestler in the 1972 and 1976 Olympic Games, appeared in magistrate's court Monday to hear the charges against him.

Police are looking for carers for the malnourished horses, which vets said were emaciated.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) said they were warned about the starved horses almost two weeks ago, but that inspectors were unable to investigate without police protection.

"This is an appalling situation. It is a tragedy that animals would be left to suffer in this way," RSPCA Victoria's acting chief executive Jon McGregor said.

If found guilty of causing the deaths of the horses, Akers faces up to two years in prison and a fine of up to AU$74,620 ($57,952).

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