Tom Smart, Deseret News
A Salt Lake County Animal Services employee sends a rooster into a cage in an area suspected of raising chickens for cock fighting in Salt Lake City police, Utah April 14, 2006. A state bill the Senate passed Tuesday would make cockfighting become a felony in Utah.
Cockfighting would become a felony in Utah under a bill that the state Senate passed Tuesday.

SALT LAKE CITY — Cockfighting would become a felony in Utah under a bill that the state Senate passed Tuesday.

Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, who Monday cited legalized abortion as his reason for opposing SB52, tried unsuccessfully to amend it during floor debate Tuesday.

After the "media feast" on his words the day before, "I'm a little hesitant to use the 'A' word," he said. Christensen's proposal to make cockfighting a class A misdemeanor rather than a third-degree felony failed.

"I think this is just a little bit of a heavy penalty on here," he said. "This is the sole reason these animals exist. You do not raise these roosters to lay eggs. They're raised to fight."

Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, opposed the amendment.

"If we leave it as a (class) A, we're simply inviting this vile behavior to have a home in Utah," he said.

Utah is the only Western state in which cockfighting is not a felony.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, said those who participate in the "blood sport" seek out states with the weakest laws to set up shop. It also brings gambling and drug and alcohol use, he said.

On Monday, Christensen brought abortion into the debate.

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"In a state where we can still allow people to kill their babies, we want to make it a felony to let chickens fight for the purpose of which they were raised," he said.

Christensen said cockfighting is not "beautiful" or "wonderful." But the birds "naturally want to do this thing in their lives and we're going to send their owners to prison for this, yet we allow people to go ahead and murder their unborn babies."

SB52 would make it a third-degree felony to own or train game fowl for fighting, and attending a cockfight would be a class B misdemeanor.

The Senate passed the bill 19-9. It now goes to the House.

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