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'Feral cat' bill passes Utah House

SALT LAKE CITY — The so-called "feral cat" bill allowing animals deemed pests to be shot was passed by the House Friday after several changes.

HB210 was stripped of much of its original intent in committee but the bill's sponsor, Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield, managed to restore some key language.

Oda said the bill is needed to allow farmers and ranchers to control feral animal populations without fear of being charged with animal cruelty.

The House agreed to add back a provision allowing the humane shooting of an animal in an unincorporated area of a county if the shooter "has a reasonable belief" the animal is feral.

Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, said feral animals are ever-present in rural areas. He said it's not a matter of if they're coming for his cows, but when.

And while many representative acknowledged the necessity of controlling feral animals in rural areas, Rep. Marie Poulson, D-Salt Lake, said her family encouraged feral cats, instead of killing them, because they kept the mice population down.

Oda ended up circling his bill before the midday break Friday after a lengthy debate about where such shootings should be allowed.

Rep. Jackie Biskupski, D-Salt Lake, said the broad language of the bill would allow individuals to shoot animals in unincorporated areas, such as Millcreek.

"It's just so not appropriate," Biskupski said.

Later Friday, the bill was amended to apply only to areas where hunting is not prohibited, and quickly passed, 44-28.

Before the vote, Minority Assistant Whip Brian King, D-Salt Lake, said he is concerned the bill provides a loophole for individuals who want to "satisfy their own perverse sense” by killing animals for pleasure.

House Minority Leader Dave Litvack, D-Salt Lake, spoke out against the bill earlier Friday, calling it "an embarrassment."

"We all had a lot of fun with the original bill," Litvack said. "I don’t think that’s really where we want to go as a policy of the state of Utah."

There was some fun, too, during the Friday afternoon vote that sent the bill to the Senate. A number of representatives could be heard meowing as they cast their votes.