Horse racer charged with violating New Zealand biosecurity laws

A professional harness racing driver recently pleaded guilty to a breach of New Zealand's Biosecurity Act for bringing unclean horse gear into the country from Australia.

Anthony Murray Butt was not convicted at the request of his counsel, who may seek a discharge without conviction at his upcoming sentencing, according to

The New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries warned Butt that the introduction of Hendra virus to the country would cause significant economic damage. Prosecutor Grant Fletcher said that New Zealand's horse racing industry employs approximately 18,000 people and detailed the effects of several outbreaks in Australia that lead to the deaths of both horses and their trainers.

Fletcher said that Butt arrived at Christchurch International Airport after a meeting in Sydney. He told officials he was a regular traveler to horse races overseas, but he did not declare that he was brining equipment with him that had not been cleaned, including boots, clothing and goggles. The prosecutor said Butt's items were very soiled.

Butt told officials that being in a race was not the same as being in contact with horses. He claimed the gear was not used for racing in Australia.

The racer's counsel said she disagreed with the prosecutor over the threat posed by Hendra virus and said that Butt takes issue that he was putting the racing industry in any kind of danger, reports.