Police have arrested a man over charges of animal cruelty following his attempt to keep around 40 horses starving for a long time in Melbourne.

Malnutrition caused the death of more than 20 horses while others were severely sick. Police have confirmed that Bruce Akers, 63, was arrested on Sunday night and has been charged with 92 counts of cruelty towards animals as well as criminal damage activities. He is due to be presented at the Broadmeadows Magistrates Court on Monday morning.

The arrest followed the neighbours’ complaints against the man regarding starvation of the horses at a Bulla farm. They complained to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals a week before Easter. When the police reached the spot which was 33 kilometres from Melbourne at 3:30 pm on Sunday, they found more than 40 horses affected by poor and improper feeding.

According to Newshub, the horses were either thoroughbreds or former race horses. One of the neighbours, Robert Mitchell, said that he was with some environmentalists to show them the creek on his property. It was then when a woman noticed a bad smell.  “A woman in the group saw a leg waving in the bushes,” he said. “She found seven dead horses in one section and five in another.”

Mitchell said that they immediately called the RSPCA a week prior to Easter. Mitchells’ wife said that over 20 horses were already dead due to their cruel treatment. In addition, there are several others who were near the stable were in bad conditions.

RSPCA Victoria claimed that the reports they received regarding the ill-treatment of horses did not specify the severity of the situation. Acting Chief Executive Jon McGregor said that RSPCA received the animal cruelty report on March 22. “We regret that this report didn’t accurately describe the situation that was uncovered yesterday and that observations from outside the property did not reveal the true extent of what lay within,” he said as quoted by the Herald Sun.