Application for a 6 cat boarding cattery DENIED by Hume City Council.

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My name is Jodie. THIS IS MY STORY..
I am a qualified and experienced veterinary nurse with a long and extensive professional working history with cats. I have my own cats, i have my own dogs and i am a responsible pet owner who pays annual rego fees, picks up my dogs poo on the street and doesn't let my pets roam or cause any nuisance to other people. I keep to myself and don't bother anyone. I am not a hoarder of cats and I don't breed them. I just love and respect their souls and I have a deep connection with animals in general. I am a strong and staunch advocate for responsible pet ownership and an ongoing supporter of compulsory animal desexing. My ethos and mantra is "quality of care" rather than "quantity of numbers".

I live a happy, clean and content lifestyle as a resident in Sunbury for the past 14 years. My connections within this community are respectful and positive. I encourage and support small business locally, I try to shop locally and ethically. I have a strong and positive association with the local netball group as well in Sunbury. Everyone who knows me describes me as a very passionate, fair and reasonable woman with a very strong work ethic. In fact, i wish more people who are looking after animals in this industry would have the same standards, commitment and morals.

Unfortunately though in this business, often high profits come before health and welfare of animals. There are countless rogue and irresponsible people who are destroying the good nature, hard work, commitment and reputation of people who like myself are doing the right thing and abiding and complying with the Code of Practice and the laws that pertain to it.

My love and passion last year was created The Cat Lounge Cattery which was created in my existing sun room which is attached to my home. It has been built with exceptional and professional plan that has roof to roof sized cabins which can easily and comfortably accomodate up to 6 cats. It reflects a "lounge-style" environment with a calm and warm presence which represents who I am and what I stand for. The outdoor exercise area is an extension which not only enhances the presentation of the cattery but provides extra stimulation and social enrichment whilst they are boarding.

In August 2016, two Hume City Council officers came to my home and wanted to see my cattery. I welcomed them in, they took photos of inside and outside, they scanned a cat which I thought was odd however we were exchanging friendly and positive conversation during the an hour and a half visit. The Senior officer explained that in order for me to obtain a Domestic Animal Permit, I had to make some minor modifications to the internal cabins and layout and get some other paperwork signed off on.
At that stage, I was told I could continue to board (2) cats because of the "zoning issue" only without a permit only due to the zoning whilst I was applying for that permit however I had to remove the other cats within 7 days in which I did the following few days later. I explained that I was going to apply for an extra (4) cats as (2) was not I felt going to have a large and significant impact on the environment as they are contained and will not encroach on the neighbours peace and tranquility. I also explained my situation and future goals to which he responded that he would use his "discretion, take into consideration all that was in my application and work with me on numbers. I felt positive and quite reassured at the end of that visit.

Next 6 months passed, no response from Hume Council at all with many messages being left however I did finally get one from the senior officer in March 2017. It was a straight out " NO MORE THAN 2 CATS" otherwise you in no certain terms can be fined for excess animals and non-compliance . I completely was shocked and upset that this same person who I dealt with all that time ago had completely done a back flip and gone back on his word. He said that the DAB permit invoice was coming and I had 14 days to pay $278. I questioned whether it was assessed fairly and that this decision was unreasonable and had not been looked at with the commitment and respect that it deserved considering he made me jump through all these hoops to even get it submitted firstly. I told him I was making a formal complaint to someone higher and since that time I have been met with the same attitude and response from Hume City Council By-Laws Dept.

There are two strong, clear and evident reasons why I have had my application denied by this council and their staff who enforce these laws.
Firstly, the bureaucratic red tape and a blanket law state law which clearly needs addressing. The "supposed" zoning being residential the council say is the reason why my application was denied for (6) cats to board is ridiculous when a resident in the same zone can own 2 private cats which are registered without a permit and another 2 cats can be kept with a Multiple Animal Permit ($35) totalling (4) minimum according to the by law.

So in my case, I am only asking for an extra (2) to operate as a Domestic Animal Boarding Business. Does that seem reasonable and logical?
I have complied with the Code of Practice in fact, my cabin measurements have all including the double ones have exceeded the minimum sizes of 900mm by 1000mmm which is the size of a shoe box in my opinion but that is acceptable for someone to board their cat in.

My cattery's overall look, design and plan internally is exceptional and the external structure is aligned with the Hume Planning Scheme which is only required if you live on property more than 4,000sqm and has had no objections from the Planning Dept or the neighbouring properties who received letters.

Despite this and the fact that I am associated with All Creatures Vet Clinic as my referring veterinarian and Kepala Pet Resort as my emergency evacuation plan, this basically means nothing to them. Hume Council have not taken these very reputable and successful DAB with whom I am supported by into consideration whatsoever.
The fact also that there are 2 units across the road in the same street are in the same RZ1 zone as myself operating businesses with a permit, obviously not the same type however still operating a business in a residential zone - Why do they get exempted? There is nothing I can see within these laws that states any exemptions.
I emailed to ask for my application to be re-assessed but was met with the same response. NO! The Hume Council can approve my application for (6) cats with special conditions placed on my permit as it does state that in their by-law however they still refuse too and tell me it is a state law.

Secondly there is a very serious concern about discrimination and a conflict of interest by association.There was a cat in my cattery at that time which belonged to a friend of mine which the senior officer told me to remove from my property once he knew it was owned by her. I have since found out that this friend has had a very lengthy and long dispute with Hume Council and the senior officer regarding a very similar situation. She has been and still is currently being subjected to unannounced and unwarranted visits to her private property by council officers without any foundation intimidating her verbally and displaying bullying behaviour as a result of her trying to obtain a DAB to operate as a non-for-profit small rescue organisation. The same level of discrimination and disrespect was shown and given to her application, the same pattern of behaviour has been demonstrated as well by the very same officer. She was made to eventually relinquish all her rights to continue with her application to ever operate this type of business in the future as she was forced to sign a document and at that time did not know her legal rights.

The enormous emotional and mental toll the Hume City Council and the officer/s involved has bestowed on her personally, her senior pets and her family is absolutely disgusting. She is actively seeking legal proceedings, she will now also be proceeding with the application through VCAT as well and will be pursuing compensation as a result of their inexcusable and deplorable conduct.

To this point, I too are being subjected to very similar experience with this council which seems to becoming very apparent as their style of work ethic.

There is NO PLACE OR TOLERANCE FOR BULLYING in any social or work setting. Everyone in the community has a right to be heard, has a right to submit their concerns and complaints about a decision if we feel is unfair and unreasonable. The position of your council officers role is a priviledge not a right and I would suspect should not be abused and taken for granted.

We are two different people who yes have a friendship however just because we share similar passion and commitment to the welfare and genuine love of animals, my application and individual circumstances have no affiliation or connection to her and have no bearing on the decision yet it seems so at this point.

The Cat Lounge Cattery deserves a place in the community of Sunbury regardless of where it is located.

I will not be able to operate with 2 cats - end of story. How can my cattery maintain its viability and succeed as a small boarding facility in this already growing very competitive, thriving market with a large number of established cat boarding facilities in Hume already expanding to cater for the fast growing heavily populated residential housing estates popping up especially in Sunbury.

The cat loving community out there clearly with nearly 1500 signatures attached to this petition an alternative to the "mainstream basic cat boarding" which my cattery offers and have a very healthy and happy connection to it.

Please re-consider your decision for a third time and help make this happen for me. The Hume Council should encourage and promote small community business yet what I am trying to do is being the subject of ridiculous by-laws and state laws. What should be happening is their focus and attention to bringing the underground, illegal cat and dog breeding/selling business too compliance especially within the Dogs Victoria Association and the Feline Fancy Club Association which are some of the main offenders who fly by the radar and receive annual permits without compliance.  

The Cat Lounge Cattery should and needs to be the reason for change and amendment to the laws and Codes of Practice that are attached to it. 

This decision to date has already had a negative impact on any future business that I could have gained as I can not operate without a permit. It has not only caused undue stress and anxiety on my emotional well being but unnecessary and constant letter writing, phone calls and emailing to your department. I will pursue through VCAT, a fair and proper review of my application.

Please have some compassion and use some common sense before I pursue it through this next avenue.

Regards

Jodie Stephens

 



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