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Feral animals of Utah — including cats — are squarely in the sights of the Utah House of Representatives.

Rep. Curtis Oda's bill that would allow people to shoot feral cats and other animals passed through the lower chamber 44-28 Friday — leaving it up to the Senate now to now the controversial measure.

The bill, HB210, was changed slightly before being passed. Rep. Kay McIff, R-Richfield, added safety provisions — including preventing those in unincorporated or rural areas targeting feral animals to shoot across roads or within 600 feet of buildings or residences and where hunting is already prohibited.

Oda accepted McIff's amendment and only offered a few words on the bill, despite the requisite meowing from several lawmakers.

"I think we've pretty well vetted everything," Oda said somewhat wearily. "It's a bill that's needed."

Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, voted against it, saying it created an environment where people will gun down the animals "for the pleasure of killing the animal."

Few pieces of legislation have taken on such a high profile this session and covered the spectrum from the serious (Oda getting threats) to the absurd (the creation of a Twitter account by a ubiquitous tweeting feral cat named Snowball).

The legislation appeared to have nine lives — getting postponed, amended and reamended — but it also always seemed to land on its feet despite strong opposition from the Humane Society and animal rights groups.

Feral animals, under the bill, don't only include cats — a point Oda tried to make repeatedly. Recently, he'd all but given up trying to explain the broad spectrum of animals covered in the bill.

"It wasn't about cats," Oda said. "But the cat community has made it a cat issue, so let's talk cats."

He rattled off statistics about the number of cats in Utah — by his count, close to 300,000. He said hundreds of thousands are dumped in fields and become feral and a menace to migratory birds.

It appeared feral animals had gotten another reprieve when Oda's attempt to resurrect the bill was stalled in the morning session. But it re-emerged.

House Minority Leader David Litvack, D-Salt Lake City, called the bill "an embarrassment to the state of Utah" and urged dumping it.

"I speak strongly and passionately against his motion to substitute," Litvack said. "This brings us back again to the original bill. We all had a lot of fun with the original bill. Certain TV programs have had fun with the bill. But I don't think it's where we really want to go as a policy in Utah."

But Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, said it was important for ranchers to have the option to protect their economic interests by having the bill in place.

"This bill is critical to them," Perry said. "I can't have a farmer or rancher going to prison because they take care of a feral cat."