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Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield, has been inundated with hundreds of e-mails criticizing his bill that would allow for the killing of feral animals by shooting, clubbing or decapitating, but two e-mails may be threatening enough to be criminal, Clearfield police say.
The Davis County Republican said he won't go into detail about the two e-mails, but said one threatened bodily harm while the other threatened to damage his insurance business.
"Both are Class A misdemeanors because they are trying to extort a decision," Oda said Friday night.
Those who sent the e-mails could be charged with violating a Utah statute against "threats to influence official or political action," said Clearfield police Sgt. Kyle Jeffries.
The e-mails are about Oda's HB210, which would exempt "the humane killing of feral animals, pests and rodents" from a state law that makes animal cruelty a felony.
Oda has received about 500 e-mails, with about 450 being canned messages from mostly out-of-state members of one of three animal rights groups, while 50 have been "nasty, vile and vicious," he said.
"Some e-mails were on the edge. Some said 'I'd rather see you dead than a cat,' " Oda said. "They didn't say they were coming to hurt me, but that they'd rather see me dead. These are the same people that want to put animals above human beings, who really would want to see a human being dead rather than an animal dead."
Oda said he doesn't want to see anyone harm an animal the way a man hurt the dog Henry, the severely abused dog after whom the felony statute is named. But he said that people, especially those living in areas with limited animal services, need to be able to take care of problem animals without fear of prosecution.
"I grew up with animals all my life, my wife and I are big dog lovers, and I don't dislike cats," Oda said. "But I hate those pigeons. They are dirty and nasty. I have a friend who lost a lung because of the toxicity of the feces."
The two threatening e-mails don't appear to be from any one organization and don't appear to be related to one another, Jeffries said. Police believe they were sent by Utah residents.
Detectives expect to ask the Davis County attorney to file charges against some people whose e-mails to Oda about HB210 have threatened a variety of "harm."
"We are hoping that we can get information out to the public when it is OK to speak your mind and when that free speech may cross the line to a criminal action," Jeffries said.
Jeffries refused to detail the threats against Oda, R-Clearfield, other than to say, "People have crossed the line."
email@example.com 76-8-104. Threats to influence official or political action
(1) A person is guilty of a class A misdemeanor if he threatens any harm to a public servant, party official, or voter with a purpose of influencing his action, decision, opinion, recommendation, nomination, vote, or other exercise of discretion.
(2) As used in this section:
(a) "Harm" means any disadvantage or injury, pecuniary or otherwise, including disadvantage or injury to any other person or entity in whose welfare the public servant, party official, or voter is interested.
HB210 Animal Cruelty Amendments
See the full text of the bill at http://le.utah.gov/~2011/bills/hbillint/hb0210.htm.