With amendments to their animal cruelty laws, Utah is poised to declare open season on pigeons, cats, dogs, pigs, horses, or any other animal that might be feral.
Utah law currently defines feral as “an animal that is normally domesticated but has reverted to the wild.” Feral cats are probably the most commonly known feral animals. Many animal groups agree that this bill would put feral and domestic cats, as well as other animals, at risk.
If H.B. 210 passes, it amends the current Animal Cruelty laws to legalize the “humane” killing of an animal, as long as the person “has a reasonable belief” it’s feral, making it as legal as hunting wildlife (except hunting actually requires a license). Furthermore, it redefines “torture” to exclude shooting with the intent to humanely kill. For example, it’s okay to shoot a cat (where shooting is allowed) if you think it’s feral. If you try to kill it quickly but fail, it’s not considered torture.
According to the Standard-Examiner, a Utah newspaper, the bill’s chief sponsor Rep. Curt Oda said the bill “does not allow just anyone to kill any animal that they believe is feral…. Cities have ordinances that restrict the discharge of firearms or any weapons with a projectile within their limits.” The Standard Examiner further reported, “Oda said he does advocate the killing of a feral animal… if it is threatening a resident’s pets or a person.”
Many animal rights groups, including the Animal Law Coalition, believe the bill could legally justify animal cruelty or torture “if the actions are ‘reasonable and necessary to protect the actor or another person from injury or death.’ There is no limit, though, on how the animal could be killed in such a situation.”
The Humane Society of Utah strongly opposes this bill in a statement on their website. “The Humane Society questions what constitutes ‘reasonable belief’ and whether anyone can ‘guarantee’ these animals would be killed ‘humanely.’ HSU Executive Director Gene Baierschmidt claims ‘the public is not trained to determine whether an animal is feral. Thereʼs going to be situations where people could be accidentally killing other peopleʼs pets.’”
Alley Cat Allies, the leading expert on feral cats, urges Utah citizens to take action and oppose H.B. 210. “Under the bill, any cat could be shot if the shooter believed the cat was feral. This bill would put thousands of cats—pet and feral—in danger.”
The bill has not yet reached a committee. Today’s action sent it to to Printing with a fiscal note and made the fiscal note publicly available. If you are a Utah citizen, please contact your legislator and urge them to oppose this dangerous bill.
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