Jordan Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Cockfighting is a misdemeanor in Utah, and some state senators don't want to see it become a felony.

Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs, compared it to bullfighting, which he said has a long history of acceptance in some cultures.

"I'm not about to create another felony and condemn the people who want to participate in this sport," he said during a Senate floor debate Friday. "They just want to be able practice a sport that they find appealing, and apparently has been appealing to many people throughout our country's history."

SB112, sponsored by Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake, would make it a third-degree felony to own or train game fowl for fighting.

Utah is the only state in the West where cockfighting is a misdemeanor, which, he said, makes it a magnet for fights that attract gambling, illicit drugs and underage drinking.

"My goal is to make sure we do not have this in the state of Utah," Davis said.

Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, said making it a felony won't stop the practice, and the state shouldn't be adding to already overcrowded prisons. He said he could imagine an inmate telling a fellow inmate that he's in prison because "I let my chicken fight with the neighbor's chicken."

Davis said cockfighting is a "horrendous" activity and encouraged his colleague to search for it on the Internet.

The Senate preliminarily approved the bill 16-10. It will be up for a final vote next week.

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