(CMR) The Grand Court has granted Feline Friends leave to seek judicial review of Cabinet's decision to implement the National Conservation (Alien Species) Regulations 2022, which has criminalized the feeding of feral cats.
Justice Marlene Carter granted leave for the review on the grounds that the Regulations are unlawful, irrational, and incompatible with the Cayman Islands Constitution.
According to court documents, Feline Friends sought leave for judicial review on grounds that the regulations are unlawful, authorizing actions beyond the scope and remit of the National Conservation Act and intending to authorize persons to commit offenses against the Animals Act and the Penal Code. Feline Friends also said the Regulations are in conflict with the provisions of the Animals Act.
The charity, according to court documents, said another ground for the application was that the promulgation of the Regulations was irrational for several reasons, including that neither Cabinet nor Feline Friends were in possession of necessary independent scientific information /data to make a reasonable determination as to the need for and/or effect of the regulations. It further stated that it was unreasonable to authorize private persons to kill an animal they believe to be a feral alien species or genetically altered species under stated provisions of the Regulations.
The third ground on which the review was granted was that the regulations are incompatible with the Cayman Islands Constitution Order (2009) as they threaten the unlawful interference with personal property rights protected by Section 15 of the Constitution, including the personal rights to an animal and the personal rights to the enjoyment of property by feeding and/or providing water to alien species and genetically altered species.
The Attorney General, who represents Cabinet, had submitted that the Court should not grant leave based on Feline Friends' noncompliance with the Protocol that both parties should consider whether some form of alternative dispute resolution procedure would be more suitable than litigation, and if so, endeavor to agree which form to adopt. Also, it was revealed that Cabinet was not given adequate time to respond to a letter requesting that Cabinet consent to a voluntary Stay of the Regulations, pending resolution of the disputed and/or until the Court has determined the claim.
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Patricia Bowen, director of Feline Friends, explained that she first became aware of the Regulations in December and took some time to make sense of the contents of the Regulations.
“After the Christmas and New Year holidays, I was able to contact legal counsel to undertake a review of the regulations on or about mid-January 2023 and advise Feline Friends as to the effect of the regulations on the charity. Once onboarding was completed and we received the relevant advice, we felt constrained to file this application for leave for judicial review,” she stated.
Justice Carter, in granting leave for the application of the review, said, “I am satisfied that the applicant has met the required threshold on the application for leave. The grounds of challenge are not obviously vexatious or frivolous.”
She said there is an arguable case for the granting of the relief sought by Feline Friends on three of the four grounds presented to the Court.
Feline Friends said it is severely impacted by the promulgation of the Regulations as it has provided free community spay, neuter, and release programs, feeding programs of established neutered and spayed cats, and provided general veterinary medical care for stray and feral cats throughout the Islands. It says these programs have now been prohibited or severely impacted by the Regulations under threat of criminal penal sanction.