Queensland sex workers forced underground by ‘draconian’ laws amid ‘predatory’ police targeting, advocates say

“American girl next door …,” it read.

When he arrived at her apartment in Brisbane, he was nervous — nosey even. Then the barrage of questions began.

Where was she from? Who was she working with? Will she have group sex? Does she offer natural services (sex acts without a condom)?

While Isabel was used to awkward, middle-aged men prying about her services, she felt uneasy.

Queensland’s sex industry is home to a labyrinth of complex laws that are tightly regulated, with sex only legally sold in about 30 licensed brothels across the state or by people working alone.

Despite it being legal to be a sex worker in Queensland, workers are criminalised for explicitly advertising their services, working in pairs or offering “natural services” — sending much of the industry underground.

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agri laws: Police supposed to collect evidence for true picture, says court on Deep Sidhu’s plea for fair probe

Police is not supposed to collect evidence only to prove the guilt of the accused but also to bring forth a true picture, a Delhi court said on Friday while directing a probe on the plea by actor-activist Deep Sidhu who claimed he was not an “instigator” of the Red Fort violence on the Republic Day during farmers’ tractor parade against the Centre’s three new agri laws.

The court added however that appropriate action may be taken and relevant sections added to the charges if Sidhu was trying to mislead the investigation by fabricating false evidence.

“IO (investigating officer) is duty bound to conduct proper investigation in the matter in a fair and impartial manner. He is not supposed to collect the evidence only to prove the guilt of the accused, rather he has to bring the true picture before the court,” Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Gajender Singh Nagar said in his order.

The court was hearing Sidhu’s plea seeking directions to the police to include all videos and other material on record which allegedly proved his innocence and conduct a fair and impartial investigation in the case.

During the hearing, advocate Abhishek Gupta, appearing for Sidhu, told the court that Sidhu was not an instigator of the incident at Red Fort, as alleged by the police.

“There is no video of him calling the people to gather at Red Fort. He did not indulge in any kind of violence taking place at Red Fort. He was only a peaceful protestor,” Gupta claimed.

He further claimed that Sidhu was staying at a hotel in Murthal from where he checked out at 12 pm on February 26 and left for Delhi only after checking out.

“The CCTV footage of the hotel, which was in working condition, checkout bill showing the time/ payment details, as online payment was made, be obtained to ascertain this… Further, the car navigation system installed in the Ford Endeavor car used by him which is in police possession would also show the route taken by him to reach from Murthal to Red Fort along with timings and time taken in the same,” he submitted.

Sidhu reached the area around Red Fort only around 2 pm, which can be proven by his phone location and by that time a huge crowd has already gathered at the spot, Gupta said.

He claimed there was CCTV footage of the Red Fort in which Sidhu can be seen helping the police by requesting the crowd to leave the rampart where they were trying to hoist the flag.

The plea also alleged that the police has chosen not to check the evidence which completely belies the case thrusted upon the applicant/accused (Sidhu).

“Further, the CCTV footage of the Red Fort is already with the investigating agency which shows that the applicant/accused did not participate in any act of violence and rather he was helping the police in pacifying the crowd.

“Applicant/accused is apprehensive that the CCTV footage and the video will also not be considered by the police (CCTV footage of Red Fort from 10.00 AM to 4.00 PM). The applicant/accused has not committed any offence as alleged in the FIR and if the said record is not called, preserved and made part of the record, then it will be difficult for the applicant/accused to prove his innocence, further the ends justice would not be met,” it claimed.

Additional Public Prosecutor Rajiv Kamboj, appearing for the police, opposed Sidhu’s plea saying the accused cannot guide the police to conduct investigation in a particular manner.

“Police is duty bound to conduct fair and impartial investigation. However, accused cannot be allowed to divert the investigation of the police from its path. By moving the present application, accused is trying to guide the investigation being done by the police,” the public prosecutor claimed.

The court had on February 23 sent Sidhu to judicial custody in the case. Police had earlier alleged he was one of the main instigators of the violent incidents at the Red Fort.

Tens of thousands of protesting farmers clashed with the police in the national capital on January 26 during a tractor parade to highlight their demands.

Many of them driving tractors reached the Red Fort and entered the monument, where a religious flag was also hoisted. Over 500 police personnel were injured and one protestor died.

In the FIR registered in connection with the Red Fort violence, police alleged two magazines with 20 live cartridges were snatched from two constables by protestors who also damaged vehicles and robbed anti-riot gear.

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Australian news sites reappear on Facebook after Government agrees to amend media bargaining laws

Australian news is back on Facebook after the social media giant agreed to reverse a block on Australian content.

Facebook pages for news outlets including the ABC, Herald Sun, Seven Network and Sydney Morning Herald were restored in the early hours of Friday morning.

The move came a week after Australians were blocked from accessing news in their Facebook feeds or sharing news content.

Facebook said the move was in response to the Federal Government’s proposed media bargaining laws.

A number of non-news pages were initially swept up in the ban, including community organisations, charities and the Bureau of Meteorology.

The code is structured so that if Facebook and Google do not sign commercial deals with traditional media outlets the Treasurer can “designate” them, and force them to pay for access to news content.

Facebook agreed to reverse the ban after the Government said it would make amendments to the laws, including giving Facebook more time to strike deals.

More to come.

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A Malaysian man has won a landmark challenge against Islamic laws banning gay sex

A Malaysian man Thursday won the country’s first legal challenge against Islamic laws banning gay sex, a victory hailed as “monumental progress” in combating persecution of the LGBTQI+ community.

He was charged in an Islamic court in 2019 with attempting to have “intercourse against the order of nature”, and several others in the same case have already pleaded guilty and were caned as a punishment. 

Critics say the climate is worsening for the gay community in Muslim-majority Malaysia, with government officials often speaking out against LGBTQI+ people.

In Thursday’s landmark case, the legislation banning gay sex was enacted in Selangor state, outside Kuala Lumpur. 

Multi-ethnic Malaysia has a dual-track legal system, with Islamic courts handling some matters for Muslim citizens, and sharia laws set by individual states.

But local laws cannot conflict with legislation at the federal level, and sodomy is already a crime under the national penal code – although the statute is rarely enforced. 

In its ruling, Malaysia’s top court sided with the man who brought the case, who was not identified, saying Selangor state was not empowered to make such a law.

The ruling means that the law is overturned and the man’s case should be dropped, according to his lawyer Surendra Ananth.

Gay rights activist Numan Afifi welcomed the “historic development”. 

“It marks monumental progress for LGBT rights in Malaysia,” he said. “We have worked hard for so many years to live in dignity without fear of prosecution.”

Despite the victory, Islamic laws banning gay sex still exist in some other states.

The man was among 11 arrested for allegedly having sex at an apartment in 2018. Some have admitted to the offence before an Islamic court and received six strokes of the cane, a fine and jail terms of up to seven months.

In another high-profile case, two women were caned in a sharia court in 2018 after being found guilty of having sex in Terengganu state.

About 60 per cent of Malaysia’s population is Muslim.

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Voluntary assisted dying laws delayed as more time granted to develop legislation in Queensland

The body drafting voluntary assisted dying laws for Queensland has flagged it may not be able to complete the work by its May deadline.

In the throes of last year’s election campaign, Labor promised that if re-elected, the state government would introduce voluntary assisted dying laws by February.

Just two months later, it has granted an extension to the Queensland Law Reform Commission (QLRC), which asked for more resources and time to draft the bill.

Now, in a review update tabled in State Parliament, the QLRC has flagged it may not meet that date.

“Although the commission has been very busy with this review, a large body of work remains to be done,” wrote QLRC chair Justice Peter Applegarth.

“The commission will complete this complex review as soon as it reasonably can.

“It hopes that it will be able to report and provide well-drafted legislation by its reporting date of 10 May 2021.

“However, the commission cannot exclude the possibility that its report and the requested draft legislation will not be complete at that date.”

In a review update tabled in state parliament, the QLRC has flagged it may not meet the May deadline.(ABC News: Natasha Johnson)

Commission members have been meeting more frequently than normal — once a fortnight instead of monthly — in a bid to get the work done on time.

The commission is required to:

  • Consult with the public and stakeholders and consider who should be eligible to access the scheme
  • Consider safeguards to ensure the decisions are made voluntarily and without coercion
  • Consider the qualifications and training of health professionals who may work under the laws, and
  • Consider the process of requesting voluntary assisted dying
A close-up shot of a 91-year-old woman's hand resting on her opposite elbow.
The laws are now set to be implemented by August 2022.(Flickr: jamelah e.)

It received 124 submissions in response to a consultation paper late last year and is in communication with participants in similar schemes in Victoria and Western Australia, where a scheme is still in its implementation phase.

The update said the commission recognised the desirability of “achieving reasonable consistency” with other states and with laws in New Zealand, but had to develop legislation suited to Queensland’s geography, population spread, and access to qualified health professionals.

“Legislation that may operate in a place like New Zealand or Victoria may not be suited to a large, decentralised state like Queensland, many of whose citizens live in remote areas,” the update states.

Queensland Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman, who tabled the review update, thanked Justice Applegarth and the QLRC for their work to date.

“The Palaszczuk government made a commitment to Queenslanders that we will legislate this extremely complex and deeply personal issue, and we are getting on with the job,” Ms Fentiman said.

“The review update identifies the principles that will underpin the recommended legislation, but notes that work is ongoing to develop a comprehensive legislative framework.

“While the inquiry time was extended, there will be a shorter implementation period of 15 months to ensure there is no delay in Queenslanders being able to have a choice in voluntary assisted dying and end-of-life decisions.”

That would see the laws implemented by August 2022.

A woman sits in a board room.
Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman has thanked Justice Applegarth and the QLRC for their work to date.(ABC News: Rachel Riga)

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PM Modi asks party leaders to educate farmers, build grassroots support for new laws

The farmers’ agitation and the forthcoming Assembly polls in five states dominated the discourse at the one-day BJP conclave of national office-bearers on Sunday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi directed the cadre to spread the word from the grassroots level up about the benefits that will accrue to farmers from the three farm laws and other good governance measures.

With the farmers’ protest showing no sign of ending soon, the BJP meeting dedicated most of its political resolution to how the farm laws will help farmers at all stages – from the production of the crop, to storage and farmers getting the right price for their crop. The party has decided to launch a 15-day campaign to reach out to farmers on the three laws and educate them about its benefits.

The campaign will also “expose the false propaganda” of the Congress-led Opposition on the issue. The conclave, the first such exercise where leaders were physically present since the Covid pandemic began in March 2020, also discussed the broad strategy for the poll-bound states of West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry. Those incharge of these states presented reports on the prospects and the challenges facing the party in the April-May elections. Other than the national office-bearers, the BJP state unit presidents, state general secretaries (organisation), and leaders appointed as incharge and co-incharge of states also attended the meeting.

Speaking at the inaugural session, Modi said BJP does not work with the sole aim of winning elections and coming to power but also with the mission of bringing all-round development of the country. He said the party should increase its political presence with this motto in mind. He enumerated various measures like the Goods and Services Tax, the farm laws and the Covid fightback which have helped the country. Modi underlined that a “positive atmosphere” for development prevails in the country and this will help the economy grow and bring in investment.

BJP passed a political resolution which laid emphasis on the farm laws, the way the Covid pandemic was handled by the Modi government and the great job done by our scientists in developing two vaccines. The resolution congratulated Modi for not only saving lives but also taking care of the poor and the migrants through PM Garib Kalyan plan, providing free ration to 80 crore people, direct benefit transfer, and reforms in the labour laws. The resolution also emphasised that the TMC dispensation in West Bengal which is “undemocratic, oppressive and practices appeasement politics” has to be thrown out in the elections. BJP vice-president Mukul Roy later presented a report on the challenges facing the party in the state and the road ahead towards achieving victory in the polls.

Earlier, in his speech, the Prime Minister had praised the work of the party in West Bengal, saying a lot has been achieved but more needs to be done to win the state. BJP also expressed confidence of retaining Assam and is hopeful of coming to power in Puducherry. In Tamil Nadu, the party is pinning its hopes on alliance partner AIADMK to improve its seat tally while in Kerala it is working on emerging as the third pole after the Congress and the Left.

Delivering the valedictory address, BJP chief JP Nadda announced that the party will launch a 15-day campaign to reach out to farmers from the block and district level up to the states on the farm laws. The BJP members will meet farmers and strengthen Farmer Produce Organisations (FPOs) aimed at supporting them. The cadre will also talk to tribal communities on efforts initiated to improve their livelihood through the Van Dhan scheme. The party cadre has also been directed to inform people about efforts being made to make India Aatmanirbhar (self-reliant).

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Some independent craft brewers disappointed with Queensland’s proposed changes to liquor laws

The laws will create a new artisan liquor licence category, allow Queensland producers to sell each others’ products on premises, and formalise pandemic relief measures for distillers — so they will be able to sell their products online.

The legislation will also allow holders to sell samples of their products at promotional events.

Sharynne Wilson owns an award-winning craft brewery that recently expanded to a second premises on the Sunshine Coast.

Under the current regulations, she needs a restaurant licence to sell other beers, wines and spirits at the first location — and can only serve their beer to customers at the newer spot.

“You’ve got to try and keep up and pay the bills and keep the lights on, and if you’re not able to get people in here for more than one drink at a time it’s very hard to do that,” she said.

“When a family goes out, or a group goes out, there might be one person who would rather drink a wine.

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Josh Frydenberg’s plan to water down company disclosure laws condemned | Business

The federal treasurer’s plan to permanently water down laws supposed to ensure companies keep shareholders properly informed could scare off investment needed to recover from the coronavirus recession, investors say.

The Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, which represents 39 large local and international pension funds, on Wednesday dismissed Josh Frydenberg’s claim the law needed to be weakened to combat class action litigation.

Frydenberg’s bill would make it easier for directors of companies to avoid legal liability for misleading the market by requiring proof that they acted with “knowledge, recklessness or negligence” when they did so.

In May, against advice from the corporate regulator, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, the treasurer used emergency Covid powers to temporarily enact the fault provision for six months, sparking concern that it would allow directors to escape penalty by claiming to be “honest idiots”.

Australian company directors, who have long opposed laws that hold them responsible for keeping the market informed at all times and limit the excuses they can use to avoid liability, lobbied for the change to be made permanent.

Announcing the legislation on Tuesday, Frydenberg said the “changes strike the right balance between ensuring shareholders and the market are appropriately informed while also allowing companies to more confidently make forecasts of future earnings or provide guidance updates without facing the undue risk of class actions”.

However, the Acsi chief executive, Louise Davidson, said the disclosure laws were “critical to ensuring that investors can rely on the information provided by companies”.

“Investor confidence in the Australian market relies on disclosures being accurate,” she said.

“These changes could undermine that confidence by providing protection for companies making poor disclosures. Making these changes permanent could damage investor confidence at a time when investment will be crucial to a recovery. Continuous disclosure provisions are fundamental to market integrity and should not be diminished.”

Davidson said Frydenberg was wrong to link the move to class action lawsuits.

“Reducing accountability for poor disclosures is not the answer to addressing issues with class actions,” she said. “These policy issues should be considered and addressed separately from the continuous disclosure and director liability regime.”

The changes had also been announced “without adequate consultation,” she said.

The Australian Shareholders’ Association, which represents mum and dad investors, said the current regime kept directors accountable to investors but the change would let them off the hook.

“Previously if there was any failure to keep the market informed under the current continuous disclosure rule, it was a simple black and white situation – don’t tell shareholders something material and the company and its directors were liable,” chair Allan Goldin said.

“The fact that directors could be held personally liable was a great incentive to ensure that companies behaved in a correct manner and kept the market informed. Now the pressure is taken off.

“So the new instruction to management from boards could be, if you want to keep some information to yourself or exaggerate a bit just make sure you don’t tell me so no one can sue me.”

Class action lawyers also attacked the move.

Class Actions Australia spokesman Ben Hardwick, who is a lawyer at Slater & Gordon, said it was “funny how the pandemic crisis has apparently abated enough to stop jobkeeper but is still serious enough to warrant permanently watering down corporate responsibility”.

“The ASX is about to hit an all-time high and the treasurer thinks it’s important to offer extra shields to company directors to avoid accountability,” Hardwick said. “It’s madness.”

He said Frydenberg appeared uncomfortable with the idea that company directors might be held accountable for misleading the market through shareholder class action lawsuits.

“His plan to water down continuous disclose laws would advantage powerful company directors over mum and dad investors,” he said.

Asked on Wednesday if he was concerned that the changes might make Australia a less attractive place to invest, Frydenberg said: “Not at all.

“We have also left in place the existing law where Asic can issue infringement notices on a no-fault basis and that sees Australia adopt a similar position to the US and UK regulators.

“It is really important that we have a balance here, where the regulation provides the opportunity for transparency, for accountability, for actions to be brought, but, at the same time, it doesn’t create an undue burden on the corporate sector.”

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Secrecy laws in spotlight as Queensland journalist faces possible jail for disclosing sources

There is a landmark court case underway in Queensland that threatens to jail a journalist for up to five years, yet his identity cannot be revealed, the case was heard almost entirely behind closed doors, and access to all transcripts has been restricted.

It was lucky the media knew it was even on because it was absent from the daily court list.

Sensitive court matters are often given titles like ‘One Matter’ but not to list a case at all was described by one senior lawyer as “extraordinarily rare”.

The media found out because, well, journalists find things out and that is what’s at the heart of a case that threatens to radically change the way the media operates in Queensland.

According to a previous Supreme Court case, the journalist — referred to only as F — received a tip-off from a police officer in 2018 about an impending raid on the home of a murder suspect who was also the subject of a joint counter-terrorism investigation.

He dispatched a reporter and a camera operator to the address and they managed to catch the arrest on camera.

The leak of information was considered a serious breach by the authorities and the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) launched an investigation into how it fell into the hands of the media.

Last August, the Supreme Court dropped a bombshell ruling that ‘public interest immunity’ did not extend to journalists protecting their sources.(ABC News: Gemma Hall)

Star chamber hearing

Within a few months, they thought they found their source — charging a police officer with three offences — giving the details to F and revealing the existence of a surveillance device.

The corruption watchdog had also hauled F into a star chamber hearing — an interview where witnesses are compelled to answer questions or face the penalty of a $26,690 fine or up to five years in jail.

F argued he did not have to answer due to a “public interest immunity” but last August, the Supreme Court dropped a bombshell ruling that it did not extend to journalists protecting their sources.

The fate of F is now in the hands of three Court of Appeal judges who allowed in the handful of journalists waiting outside the courtroom for the final 30 minutes of the hearing.

If his appeal fails, F could expect the CCC to schedule another star chamber hearing to force the answers it seeks and, if it doesn’t get them, launch a prosecution.

It seems a long way from the original target of these coercive powers.

Queensland Police Service officers in South Bank
The CCC thought they found the source and charged a police officer with three offences.(ABC News: Patrick Williams)

The Criminal Justice Commission (CJC) was born out of the Fitzgerald Inquiry, empowered to break down the cone of silence that had for so long protected corrupt cops and organised criminals.

The CJC was remodelled as the Crime and Corruption Commission in 2001 but the explanatory note attached to its act of parliament maintained its focus on organised crime and misconduct of public officials.

In the Newman government era, the CCC used its star chamber powers to target outlaw motorcycle gangs, whose members found themselves compelled to answer questions that would incriminate others and help the wider law enforcement crackdown on bikies.

Now it’s caught up a journalist who received a tip-off from a police officer.

The number of journalists who could be prosecuted with this sort of precedent is chilling, even if the commission decides not to make a martyr of F.

Push for shield laws in Queensland

The journalists’ union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), is already using the case to push for shield laws.

“The journalist was doing their job, they were protecting the source on a story that had public interest.

“No worker should have to face the thought of jail for doing their job.”

Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance's Michelle Rae.
Queensland MEAA president Michelle Rae says no worker should have to face jail for doing their job.(ABC News: Tim Swanston)

In the lead-up to last year’s state election, then-attorney-general Yvette D’Ath wrote in a letter to the union that she would consider the laws.

“If returned following the upcoming state election, the Palaszczuk government has committed to considering the outcomes of recent case law, how journalist protections are operating in other Australian jurisdictions, and the suitability of these models within Queensland’s legal framework,” Ms D’Ath said.

Former Law Society president Bill Potts echoed the call, saying “we need to have shield laws”.

If Queensland does join the rest of the country in adopting shield laws, it could lead to a truly perverse legal outcome — one journalist prosecuted while all others are protected.

An ABC camera operator, dressed in fluorescent emergency clothing, films a fire at a house in bushland.
The number of journalists who could be prosecuted with this sort of precedent is chilling.(ABC News)

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NSW animal cruelty laws to increase penalties for individuals and businesses that treat animals without care | The Border Mail

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The NSW Parliament has introduced a raft of changes to animal cruelty legislation, that could now see offenders slapped with the nation’s harshest penalties. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Bill 2021 will amend the previous legislation penned in 1979, and increase penalties to both individual offenders and businesses that treat animals harshly. Under the proposed legislation, anyone caught assaulting an animal could face 12 months’ jail time, which is a doubling of the previous penalty. The financial penalty for cruelty to animals will also increase from $5,500 per offence to $44,000. Additionally, the failure to provide adequate food or shelter would see offenders paying up to $16,500 in fines as opposed to the previous $5,500 penalty. Businesses that fail to provide for animals will incur an $82,500 fine instead of the previous $27,500 penalty. In a statement, the RSPCA said the Bill “reaffirms the commitment to reforming and updating the animal welfare legislation in NSW to better align with community expectation”. “The Bill will also close a gap in existing animal welfare laws, where under the Crimes Act 1900, people convicted of the most serious cruelty offences cannot be banned from owning animals,” the statement said. IN OTHER NEWS: Independent state member for Wagga, Dr Joe McGirr, told The Daily Advertiser the new penalties are about recognising that cruelty does not always come in the form of violence. “Some of the [previous] legislation understands cruelty to animals as being physical, but the way animals are treated can impact them as well,” Dr McGirr said. “Cruelty is not just physical. Treatment can also affect the way an animal behaves. I did have a dog that was affected by its previous car and quite frankly that dog had anxiety.” Animal Welfare League CEO Mark Slater said the new legislation would be welcomed for its improvement to the definition of cruelty. “The legislation recognises things like trigger stacking as being evidence of cruelty in some cases,” Mr Slater said. “Trigger stacking is when an animal is flooded by triggers and becomes volatile all of a sudden. They may be reacting to an environment or the sound of a voice, and their response might not be in line with the situation. That’s when someone might get bitten without warning.” Changing the laws, Dr McGirr, would be the first step to eradicating the problem of animal cruelty in society. “Increasing the penalty is never the total solution,” he said. “Increasing the penalties is a good measure for two reasons. Firstly, it’s a deterrent, and secondly, it sends a message about what society values. “But the government has indicated it will be looking to widen the approach and the indication is they will be looking to do that this year. I’m looking forward to having more discussions on it this year.” Wagga-based animal adoption worker for Best Friends Pet Rescue, Janey Adams, agreed the penalties were a good start to changing the conversation, but said “as with everything, enforcing it is always the problem”. “Definitions are not the problem, it’s the enforcement and it’s resources to inspect and pursue complaints,” Ms Adams said. In NSW, the RSPCA has the power to investigate complaints of cruelty. When an animal comes to Ms Adams at the Pet Rescue home in Wagga, it is rare that she will know its background. “We get neglected, underweight dogs. Malnutrition is easy to see so we know it’s been mistreated, but it’s a case by case situation. We look at what the animal needs at present,” she said. “Some dogs exhibit fearful behaviour that that’s not always because of abuse, it’s hard to know.” Currently, Ms Adams has 84 cats and 18 dogs she is looking to rehome across the region. Though on occasion she has also adopted rabbits, goats and other uncommon household pets. “The kitten problem is much bigger than the puppy problem generally,” she said. “It’s kitten breeding season at the moment, and we get things like the ‘community cat’. That’s the cat that people don’t take ownership over, that keeps coming around to various people’s houses and getting fed but who no-one has gotten desexed. “Then it will turn up with a litter of kittens and someone will call us to say they’ve got all these kittens on their front lawn that need homes.”


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