A Utah bill that sought to allow the shooting of feral animals is moving forward–minus any language that would allow the shooting of feral animals. All that remains of Utah HB 210 is a single provision that allows “a defense to prosecution for animal cruelty of the conduct of the actor towards the animal was reasonable and necessary to protect the actor or another person from injury or death.”

In a packed meeting during which no one testified in favor of the bill, members of the House Judiciary Committee cited numerous concerns with the bill, and dismantled it line by line.

Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper indicated that the term “feral” is subjective and opens the door to indiscriminate killing; Rep. Brian King, D- Salt Lake, said that the bill would create a loophole for individuals who enjoy killing animals.

As Gene Baierschmidt, executive director with the Utah Humane Society, explained when speaking against the bill, “There are depraved people out there who like to kill animals,” he said. “This bill just gives open season on dogs and cats.”

Speaking against the bill on behalf of Salt Lake Animal Services, April Harris told the committee, “Most feral cats we capture relax in a few days, and we realize they are scared house pets and not truly feral.” Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns similarly noted that it was unclear how someone would know whether an animal was feral or just a stray.

For those cats who are feral (cats born to abandoned parents and unaccustomed to human handling) Salt Lake County Animal Services advocates Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). The group has found this to be the most cost-effective way to deal with cat colonies, because after a few years, the cat colonies cease to exist.

Numerous animal advocacy groups, including Alley Cat Allies and Best Friends Animal Society, launched campaigns against the bill in January. The swift derailment of Utah HB 210 is proof that when communities rally together for a cause, unfair plans can be turned around.

– Catherine Burt