Pets are the descendants of animals who once lived in the wild, in their own natural communities, but who have been selectively bred in captivity, to live as our companions in our human homes. Pets are born into a world in which they have no control over anything that happens to them - their well-being is our obligation.
A feral animal is simply a former pet or descendant of former pets, who has learned to survive on his own in a human landscape. Since their ability to survive in the wild is impaired by domestication, feral animals remain the collective responsibility of humans.
Unfortunately, most people seem to believe that we meet our obligations to care for pets and former pets by having them destroyed when we no longer want to deal with them. This is evidently a novel definition of well-being "“ one that we would never want for ourselves.
That brings us to Utah House Bill 210.
You can go here to read it Utah House Bill 210, but I'm happy to summarize.
• removes pest from the definition of animals.
Normally that would sound like a good thing, and I could see removing animals from the definition of pest, but no, that isn't what this bill intends to do. What it effectively does is remove animal protection laws (skimpy as they already are) from certain animals deemed "pests."
• provides that "torture" doesn't include shooting an animal with the intent to humanely kill the animal.
The operative word here is intent. Even if the animal limps off to die slowly of a wound, as long as the intentions were humane, the result is not considered cruelty or torture. Personally, I can't think of anything more cruel than breeding an animal to depend on humans, and then shooting her for that same crime.
• ensures that the provisions of this bill do not affect or prohibit the humane shooting or killing of an animal if the person doing the shooting or killing has a reasonable belief that the animal or a feral animal.
Even those who don't see humane shooting as an oxymoron should be alarmed by the use of the words reasonable belief here.
• Allows shooting of feral animals to protect the life of the shooter or another person.
How to tell if your cat is plotting to kill you is a joke... honest.
Finally, Fiscal Notes on the bill say it all: "Enactment of this bill likely will not result in direct, measurable costs and/or benefits for local governments." My fondest wish is that, come election time, voters in Oda's district will relieve him of his capacity to propose these cruelty-promoting, do-nothing bills.
We cling to the dangerous idea that the way to solve conflicts and problems is through violence and destruction. We don't need laws that reinforce this line of thinking. Face it, we have been trapping, removing, and killing feral cats for decades, and yet, here we still are, with a larger feral population than ever.
What is the solution?
Spay and neuter your pets. Do not adopt a pet that you can't commit to for its lifetime, and never abandon a pet or her litter. Breeding pets is the cause of feral populations and the killing of animals in shelters. Unless we address that, we will always give people like Rep. Oda an excuse to talk about shooting cats.
For existing feral colonies, Trap-Neuter-Return is the only ethical option. Humane traps are used to capture cats, so that they can be spayed and vaccinated, and then are returned to the colony. Killing and removing cats only creates available space for more abandoned pets to live.
It really is that simple, and it really is our responsibility to find non-killing solutions for issues having to do with other living beings.
Friends of Animals Position Statement on Feral Cats and Trap-Neuter-Return
Many organizations, including Friends of Animals, offer low-cost spay/neuter certificates and assistance. In Utah, please see No More Homeless Pets.
For tips on how to minimize conflict with feral animals in your neighborhood, please check out the Alley Cat Allies web site.
To sign petitions against Utah HB 210, visit Alley Cat Allies
Contact information, if you would like to contact Rep. Oda directly to express your concerns.