It was a horse in distress with its “legs in the air” that first prompted Bruce Akers’ neighbor Carolyn Lofts to contact the local authorities. Similar reports had been made by other residents in the area, who complained about a foul smell coming from the property. What police and animal welfare officials discovered when they arrived at the farm in Victoria, Australia this weekend, however, horrified them.

A total of twenty-two horses were found dead and decomposing on the property and another—the same horse trapped upside down in a stand of rocks with his legs in the air—was euthanized on site. More than twenty additional horses were found alive in severe states of starvation, some with a body scale index as low as zero.

Former Australian Olympic wrestler Bruce Akers, 63, was arrested and charged with 92 counts of animal cruelty. He has since been released on bail. Akers, who represented his country in the 1972 Munich and 1976 Montreal Olympic games, had been working as a breeder and registered racing trainer since 1986. Based in Bulla, Victoria, Akers’ horses have not raced publically since 2011. The title of Akers’ farm is currently listed under his daughter Christy Akers’ name.

At hearings held on Sunday, the defense argued that Akers did not own the malnourished horses and that he suffered from severe mental and physical conditions which should prevent him from being taken into custody. Defense attorney Emily Buchanan also suggested that asbestos-related material dumped nearby could have impacted the horses’ health.

The police are currently working to distribute the more than 20 surviving horses among area caretakers. It’s a reportedly stressful time for livestock in this rural region 18 miles northwest of Melbourne, which is currently suffering from drought conditions. Authorities for Australia’s RSPCA animal welfare organization in Victoria say more animals have been seized by the group in the last two months than at any other time in its 140-year history.

Victoria’s RSPCA received their first alert regarding a lack of sufficient feed for the horses on Akers’ farm on March 22. Jon McGregor, acting chief executive for the office, said the report, which described conditions observed outside the farm, did not accurately portray the extent of the devastation within. According to The Herald Sunthe RSPCA did not speak to Akers or visit the property after the preliminary report was filed nearly two weeks ago. The organization said that Akers is known to them, and for safety reasons, a police escort was required for any visit to his property. Today, the Victoria RSCPA published a lengthy note regarding the investigation on their Facebook page.

If convicted, Bruce Akers could face two years in prison, a ban of at least 10 years from owning animals, and a fine of more than $57,000 USD. He is scheduled to appear back in court on May 2nd. You can read The Age Victoria’s full story here.