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Cockfighting bill is clawed to death

Weakened, then dies » Lawmakers decline to strengthen penalties for fights.

By Lee Davidson

| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published Mar 13 2014 11:59 pm • Last Updated Mar 14 2014 09:07 pm

A bill to toughen penalties for cockfighting was clawed, wounded and eventually killed in legislative wrangling Thursday.

Rep. Johnny Anderson, R-Taylorsville, the House sponsor of the bill, said the bill’s defeat will continue to "make Utah the cockfighting capital west of the Mississippi."

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SB112 originally sought to make cockfighting a third-degree felony. In committee, that was lowered to a class A misdemeanor for the first offense and a felony for subsequent violations.

But the full House amended it Thursday to make any violation a class A misdemeanor. Currently, cockfighting is a class B misdemeanor.

The Senate then refused to go along with that change, the House refused to back away from it, and lawmakers let it die minutes before the Legislature’s midnight adjournment.

Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, the bill’s sponsor, said in earlier debate that makes Utah is a haven for the fights. "It’s a blood sport," Davis said earlier. "It is being made a felony in every state around us."

But Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, managed to amend the bill to prevent Utah from following suit. He complained that felonies should be reserved only for the most serious offenses, and "not victimless crimes against one’s own property."

Rep. Keven cq Stratton, R-Orem, wasn’t swayed with arguments that most states punish the activity more severely. "We’re not a state that follows. We’re a state that leads. We need to lead," and not crowd prisons with more felonies for such crimes.

Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City, noted that dog fighting in Utah, in contrast, is a felony now. "We don’t have a scourge of dog fighting in the state, because it’s a felony. We also don’t have a prison full of dog fighters, because a felony is a deterrent."

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