Press Release: 1 August 2016
Animal Advocates Urge Councillors To Act Within The Law
Animal advocates have cautioned Wellington City councillors that they need to act within the law when considering the mandatory microchipping of the capital's Cats.
An independent legal opinion obtained from one of New Zealand's leading public and constitutional law firms has highlighted the fact that the Wellington City Council has no legal authority for mandating microchipping, or for restricting Cat numbers. This will be critical for councillors deciding how to vote on the Cat provisions contained in the Animal Bylaw, which is being voted on this coming Thursday.
The legal basis for the council's proposed restrictions on Cats is extremely tenuous, The legal opinion we've obtained shows that the council simply can't mandate microchipping. There are four major legal issues identified with the council's proposed bylaw.
Firstly, there has been a lack of evidence and a basic error of law made by the council. They have not produced any substantive evidence that Cats are causing the problems they're being accused of. The evidence the council has used, a couple of reprinted newspaper articles, neither of which was about Wellington, and a single misleading small-scale survey simply don't meet the standards needed to formulate public policy in the 21st Century.
Secondly, the restrictions on Cats are being put in place by the council for an improper purpose, that is the protection of wildlife. This is very apparent from the council's statement of proposal and consultation documents, and public statements from mayor Celia Wade-Brown and Councillors Pannett, Free and Foster. Simply put, councils lack the legal powers to protect wildlife, which makes the bylaw ultra vires, or 'beyond the law'. The council need to act within the framework provided by Parliament, rather than thinking it can pursue its own agenda.
Thirdly, it's apparent that the use of an onerous bylaw to restrict the rights of the 52% of Wellington households that have a Cat has been predetermined. The council had the option to work with other organisations like the SPCA to educate those who keep Cats, but instead pre-emptively wrote off a voluntary approach. The result is that those who keep Cats will be hit with millions of dollars of unnecessary compliance costs. Councils are meant to assess all options fairly, but they’ve failed to do so in this case.
Fourthly, the council has failed to demonstrate that these costly and invasive measures will even fix the problems they're claiming. As has been pointed out in several of the written submissions, even if, despite the lack of evidence, the council think that Cats create a nuisance or a health issue, it's not apparent how microchipping them will resolve the issues they’re claiming.
We're therefore suggesting that councillors will need to tread very carefully when they vote on the Animal Bylaw on Thursday.
Councillor Pannet was quoted in a media article dated 12 March 2016 as stating "Essentially having the identification means we won't be trapping, and potentially putting a Cat down if it is caught, our staff will know that it is a Cat owned by someone". Thus it is clear the core intent of compulsory microchipping is one of facilitating the mass execution of all Cats who do not have the ID chip. Given the council only has five animal control officers, we are concerned the council may outsource the nefarious activity of trapping and mass execution of Cats to amateur environmental groups.
Like many other groups, we're strong advocates for the protection of native wildlife, and for responsible behavior by those who keep domestic animals. However, the council's bylaw is ill-conceived and lacks legal standing. Our recommendation is therefore that measures like microchipping should be voluntary, supported by public education campaigns, and delivered through existing animal welfare organisations such as the SPCA and the Cat's Protection League. To persist with mandatory microchipping will mean that the council will be exposed to legal challenge, with all the costs to ratepayers and reputational damage that can result.
The opinion, written by Mai Chen, Managing Partner of Chen Palmer Partners, and Adjunct Professor of the Faculty of Law at the University of Auckland was commissioned by animal advocates after concerns about the legality and intent of the Wellington City Council's proposed changes to the Animal Bylaw.
Press Release: 3 August 2016
Wellington City Council Consulted On Kill Zones For Cats On Council Reserves
A few days out from the council voting on unprecedented restrictions on the capital's Cats, it's come to light that the council has taken legal advice on setting up kill zones for all unidentified Cats on reserve land.
The information came to light in legal advice to the council from law firm DLA Piper, who were asked to assess whether the council can regulate Cats on council reserves.
DLA Piper stated: "Council do not have the power, under the Reserves Act, to require Cats on a reserve to be identifiable. They do however, have recourse if Cats found on the reserve are not identifiable under the Reserves Act. Council could advertise this ability by stating that Cats are required to be easily identifiable and that if a Cat is not wearing a collar and/or have a microchip then a Cat found on a reserve may be seized and disposed of if there is no reputed owner."
The council planning office states:
"Our formal definition of reserve land is public land set aside for recreational, ecological, landscape, cultural and/or historic purposes and generally managed under a reserve management plan prepared under Section 41 of the Reserves Act 1977. There is approximately 4000 hectares of land managed as reserve. Road frontage is often called "road" reserve but is not reserve as defined above."
The council's agenda is quite clear from the legal advice it has been seeking. If this bylaw is passed, it will be open season on any Cats that just happen to wander onto council reserve land. And should your family Cat lose it's collar or the microchip stops functioning, then the Cat can be trapped and killed.
The legal advice also proposes that Cat trapping and extermination could be carried out by "a person specifically authorised in writing by the Council".
It is clear that this leaves open the door for the council to delegate these Cat-extermination duties to anti-Cat extremists such as the Morgan Foundation and other amateur environmental groups currently in partnership with Wellington City Council and Greater Wellington Regional Council, for example Polhill Restoration Trust which appears to be wholly funded by WCC, GWRC, and the Morgan Foundation.
Given the sad example of Teddy the Cat who was killed by park rangers in Auckland in March 2015 who had both a microchip and collar with name tag, we feel it's highly likely that entirely innocent and much loved Cats, including those who have identification will be killed as a result.
We're deeply concerned that the council has had this legal advice since February this year, yet has never disclosed it until now. Throughout the consultation period, the council never mentioned this hidden agenda, nor did it ask the people of Wellington what their thoughts might be on the deliberate targeting of family pets.
This sort of deliberate misinformation is completely unacceptable. Wellingtonians have a right to know that the council is intending to target their Cats, and the council has a responsibility to be honest about what it intends. We are therefore calling on the council to stop this travesty of process. One option is to re-open public consultation, this time with the council being open and honest about what it intends.
Here are the two leaked documents of legal advice commissioned by the council, download them now and share them around with everyone who is interested.
Jessica Clarke is 'Graduate Advisor' for WCC, Myfanwy Emeny is listed in the document as 'Team Leader Parks, Sports & Recreation' we understand she is also Team Leader Urban 'Ecology'. These are council salaried staff so you can't just vote them out at the next election.
Rumor has it there's more to be leaked, so stay tuned.
"Whistleblowing is not just leaking, it's an act of political resistance" - Edward Snowden
Response to Shar Davis of Newswire: 18 October 2016
On 17 October 2016 Feline Rights was contacted by Shar Davis, a journalism student at Whitireia Polytechnic requesting comment about our concerns. While we dutifully responded and shared our position, we never heard back from Shar aside from a thank you message, and we never checked Whitireia Polytechnic's Newswire website to see what was published until February 2017 when we engaged ourselves in restructuring our website so the press releases and comments shared with representatives of the media are all on a single page. Here is the text of Shar's message to Feline Rights:
I am writing an article about the recent attention cats have received in Welington with the following announcement...
Aug - Microchipping bylaw
I see from your website that you are an organisation that would perhaps not be supportive of these initiatives.
I would like to provide a balanced approach to my article and wondered if you would be willing to provide me a comment about your concerns about any of the announcements.
If you are, I would appreciate your response. I am a journalism student at Whitireia Polytechnic in Wellington.
Thank you for your time considering my request.
Here is the link to the report by Shar Davis published at Newswire on 11 November 2016.
The article addresses none of our concerns, it simply covers how the SPCA has supposedly been 'overwhelmed' by the response to the 'Snip and Chip' campaign run by SPCA and the antifelinists at Wellington City Council. Now, we're not taking Shar to task for failing in providing a balanced approach in this report as we've not had the opportunity to view the original draft submitted to the editor. One of the first lessons for any aspiring journalist is the editor edits, and when it comes to the mainstream media, the editor edits any copy that does not fit the directives from the 'hidden human powers that be' who are the real puppeteers pulling the strings of the media for the purposes of social engineering.
John Swinton, former chief editorial writer for the New Your Times put it this way:
Now, here's what we shared with Newswire, as you can see, none of our concerns have been covered in the report:
Balanced journalism on this subject is certainly required, much which has been published recently in the mainstream media on Cats has been more of a denigratory campaign.The attempt to place restrictions on domestic Cats and conduct mass extermination of all Cats without a microchip ID in Wellington appears to be a test case for the entire nation. The inclusion of compulsory microchipping in the WCC Animal Bylaw 2016 will be challenged in Court.
We do support desexing, not only to prevent the birth of unwanted kittens, but also to discourage wandering behavior, minimise fight injuries and the risk of infection with FIV (Feline immunodeficiency virus). In our experience, a desexed Cat is a happier, healthier Cat. Compulsory desexing probably cannot be enforced, therefore public education is the key to encouraging citizens to desex their Cats.
That being said, our view is some of the information being shared as 'public education' appears to be based around environmentalist dogma rather than fact. It is claimed that domestic Cats are supposedly decimating native birds and other native wildlife, and the idea of keeping Cats in at night in the interest of minimising predation is presented as fact.
First we would say, in 50 years of keeping Cats we have never once witnessed a bird or lizard capture at night. Of the Cats we presently keep, in the six years we have had them, we've never witnessed a bird or lizard capture at all. They do catch rats and mice occasionally which they present to us. Lots of birds and lizards in our garden, we'd certainly know if the Cats were catching them.
Second we draw your attention to the following section on our 'Consequences' page regarding articles quoting ecologist Adrienne Livingston on her observations on the effects on native birds in Raglan after a zealot amateur environmentalist killed everyone's domestic Cats and also the comments from Landcare Research wildlife ecologist John Innes .
Once one takes into consideration the observations of Livingston, Innes and quite a few other scientists, it's clear there is no real consensus on the pros and cons of night curfews on Cats. Zealandia sanctuary was advising people keep their Cats in during the day when birds are around, but once we posted about this on our website, Zealandia removed that page from their website. There's a screenshot from that page posted on our page about activities at Wellington Zoo .
Wellington City Council rejected the idea of including night curfews in the Animal Bylaw Review 2016 because most stakeholders agreed the idea is unenforceable, and in truth any form of 'Cat control' will be next to impossible to enforce. To quote from an email discussion with one of the Council's animal control rangers: "Cats will be a nightmare for us".
What is of huge concern for all who keep Cats is we have documented evidence Council staff have consulted on creating kill zones for Cats on reserve land. Leaked documents posted on our site here...
As there are only five animal control rangers in Wellington, and because of what the Council has consulted on in the above papers, we believe the Council will subcontract the task of mass execution of Cats to amateur environmental extremist groups and what is likely to occur is repeat performances of this sad scenario...
Much loved Feline family members will be killed, regardless of if they have identification and the inevitable consequences will be social unrest. When the policies of local government precipitate social unrest, no one in the community can deny that amounts to poor government. In a recent telephone discussion with Craig Dunn of Paw Justice, Craig stated he has in his possession a white paper from Auckland City Council which confirms they are considering allowing residents to trap domestic Cats who wander on to their properties. Again, social unrest is on the cards if such a bylaw should be passed.
On the matter of National Cat Management Strategy Group (NCMSG), they are a lobby group and there are profits to be made. Both the vets and NZ Companion Animal Council (NZCAC) stand to profit from compulsory microchipping. Our estimate is there is around $120 Million in total profit to be made if all domestic Cats in NZ were required to be microchipped and citizens choose to comply. We've covered this in more detail in the article on NZCAC.
NCMSG seek to have the Animal Welfare Act 1999 amended to remove the 'stray' Cat designation from the Act, thus leaving 'owned' Cats meaning those Cats with a microchip and registration with NZ Companion Animal Register (NZCAR) and 'feral' Cats meaning any Cat without the microchip and thus a target for extermination.
So this matter is now a national issue rather than an issue for Wellington alone.
As we have stated in our recently published article on NCMSG, the participation of SPCA and NZ Veterinary Association (NZVA) has made citizens less trusting of, and less likely to support SPCA and it has reduced citizens trust in their vets, especially as the Council wishes for local vets to inform the Council of those citizens who have declined to engage in microchipping their Cats.
In truth, these people have gone about this in the wrong way. By engaging in an orchestrated libelous propaganda campaign against the Cats, and attempting to force citizens to microchip their Cats, they have effectively alienated a larger percentage of those who keep Cats, and the term 'conservation' has become a dirty word in many households.
On the subject of a 'Predator Free' capital:
While the minds of some citizens are ensnared by pest-free mass hysteria and others citizens are engaged in emotively defending their companion animals, what we have is a divide and rule scenario. Undoubtedly there is other business going on behind the scenes the hidden wannabe rulers of society are hoping we will not notice. It's the standard methodology of the stage conjurer utilised on a mass scale.
When one sees business terminology such as "private-public partnership" and "management strategy", etc used in a political context, that is a sure sign of the evolution of corporate power into a dangerous political form.
The present focus on environmental action at all costs is not about genuine conservation as such. It's a business model, albeit a thoroughly flawed one. Restoration of 'native biodiversity' = more tourism = more revenue, and if it takes a series of pogroms against any and all exotic species including our beloved Feline family members then so be it.
A culture that does not grasp the essential interplay between power and true moral values, which mistakes management techniques for wisdom, and fails to understand that compassion and inclusiveness, not profit, is the measure of a civilization, condemns itself to death.