by Laura Allen of Animal Law Coalition
Misuse of Power Runs Wild at State Levels
As the Utah 2011 legislative session gets underway, state Rep. Curt Oda wasted no time in introducing a bill that reflects his legislative priority. He is not using his position as a legislator, however, to try to create jobs, improve schools, or protect children, for example. Instead, his bill, H.B. 210, encourages the torture and killing of animals.
Oda wants to amend the state’s animal cruelty law, Section 76-9-301, to exempt “pests” and “feral” animals from the definition of animal. This means that to the extent they were protected, these animals would no longer be protected by the state’s animal cruelty law. Oda is reported to have told a local newspaper that “feral” animals and “pests” could be shot with a bow and arrow, for example, decapitated or clubbed to death.
Under Utah law a “feral” animal is one “that is normally domesticated but has reverted to the wild.” Ut. Code 23-13-2 Like cats, pigs or horses. If the bill becomes law, anyone could shoot, beat to death, or drown cats in a feral cat colony, for example.
The bill would also weaken the state’s animal cruelty law in other ways. Under H.B. 210 it would be legal to shoot an animal as long as the intent is to “humanely kill” the animal. It would also be a defense to any 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.
In 2008 the Utah legislature amended the state animal cruelty law to exempt some animals from its protections and also for the first time created a felony penalty for the torture of domestic dogs and cats. Horses as well as farm animals are already not considered “animals” under Utah’s 2008 animal cruelty law as long as they are treated according to accepted husbandry or customary farming practices. It is not clear feral horses or feral pigs have any protections anyway, but cats do, and this bill, H.B. 210, would allow them to be killed by the most horrific forms of torture.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Find your UT legislator here. Write (faxes or letters are best) or call and urge him or her to vote NO on H.B. 210. Please be polite and be sure to tell the legislator that you are a constituent.