The Senate passed a bill Friday to increase penalties for cockfighting, which supporters hope will chase the bloody gambling sport from the state.
It voted 18-5 to pass SB112, and sent it to the House.
Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, initially sought to make cockfighting a felony, but several senators argued that was too severe.
As Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, said in earlier debate, he could imagine two inmates in prison. “One says, ‘I murdered my wife what did you do?’” Christensen said. “’I let my chicken fight with a neighbor’s chicken.”
So Davis amended the bill to make initial offenses a Class A misdemeanor, instead of the current Class B. Also, second and subsequent offenses would be Class 3 felonies. Davis said that is severe enough to encourage police to enforce the law.
He argued that most Western states already make offenses felonies, which has made Utah an attractive locale for cockfighting.
“This isn’t a clean sport. It’s a dirty sport. It’s a blood sport,” Davis said. “It is being made a felony in every state around us.”
Sundays Hunt, Utah state director for The Humane Society of the United States, said: “Cockfighting is a barbaric combination of animal cruelty and gambling. With today’s vote, the Utah Senate has sent the message that our state will not become a refuge for cockfighters. We now urge the House to quickly pass this bill to bring our cockfighting law more closely in line with our neighboring states.”
A similar bill passed the Senate last year, but died in the House.