SALT LAKE CITY -- A feral cat bill that has received national attention had its first hearing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday afternoon, and was gutted by the committee.
The bill would have made it possible for a person to humanely kill a feral animal, but the committee instead changed the bill and removed parts to which animal rights activists objected.
The bill in its original form was drafted to allow farmers and those who may have problems with feral animals to be able to humanely kill those "pests" to protect livestock feed or their own animals. The problem was, as many in the audience came to speak out against the bill argued, that no one can really tell whether an animal is feral or not.
"It's much more likely you're killing a neighbor's pet than you are killing a feral animal," said April Harris, of Salt Lake County Animal Services.
After a two-hour debate, the committee decided to amend the bill to remove the feral language and took out the portions of the bill that allowed people to shoot an animal with the intent to humanely kill. What is left in the bill is that a person may now kill an animal for personal protection.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield, is still somewhat pleased with the bill even after the changes.
"It accomplishes part of what I was after, so I'm not unhappy," Oda said.
The committee room was filled to capacity with members from the animal rights community who wanted to show their support for Utah's animal population. Three members of the audience spoke against the bill during the public comment period but no members of the audience spoke in favor it.
The bill got a lot of publicity thanks to a Twitter account known as UTFeralcat. The Twitter handle, since the session began, has been sending messages over the social networking website about the bill and about Oda, mostly poking fun at the bill and the lawmaker.
The bill was also featured on "The Colbert Report" on Comedy Central.
But the situation escalated further than joking for Oda as he had received a death threat that is now being investigated by the Clearfield police department.
The bill will now move to be debated by the full body of the House.