COULD a powerful state government committee which forced Fremantle council to abandon its strongest cat control measures have made the wrong call?
The council tried to ban cats from its roads and reserves unless they were under the effective control of their owner (essentially on a lead), but the Joint Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation said that clause of its local law clashed with the state’s Cat Act and issued a direction for it to be removed.
If the council had ignored the direction, it risked being held in contempt of WA Parliament and could have been sanctioned by the committee.
Now Bayswater council has had a similar measures struck out, but it’s stuck its neck out after locals provided it with a legal opinion with a different interpretation of the Act than the committee’s.
Bayswater’s deadline to delete its “effective control” clause passed on June 6, but after seeing the locals’ legal opinion it deferred voting on the matter in May.
The committee wanted Bayswater’s clause knocked out because the Cat Act refers to councils “specifying places” for prohibiting cats rather than having blanket bans, but the legal advice from Castledine Gregory partner Mark Gregory suggests that is a narrow reading.
“In our opinion the ‘effective control’ provision is valid because…” Mr Gregory’s letter reads, with five pages of argument following.
“The fact that sections 79(3)(f) and (g) of the Cat Act refer to ‘specifying places’ for the absolute prohibition of cats, and ‘specified area’ where cats must be capable of being confined to the premises, is not relevant to the proper interpretation of section 79(1) of the Act,” he concluded.
Mr Gregory cited former local government minister John Castrilli from the second reading of the Cat Act in 2011, where he set out its intent.
“This legislation has been developed with a view to reducing the number of stray cats being euthanased each year, to encourage responsible cat ownership, and to provide for better management of the unwanted impacts of cats on the community and environment,” Mr Castrilli had said.
Mr Gregory also argued the “effective control” provision was “proportionate and reasonable” because it wasn’t seeking a complete ban on cats and was aimed at preventing the killing of wildlife.The committee had raised concerns about “unexpected consequences” to cat owners.
by STEVE GRANT