Cockfighting as a felony passes Utah House

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Utah Legislature passes bill strengthening penalties for cockfighting

Senate Bill 134, Game Fowl Fighting – Amendments, passed the third House reading March 10, 2015 at 9:47 p.m. with a vote of 41 to 33. The bill was modified in the House to increase the penalty for cockfighting to a third degree felony on the third offense. After three years, the Humane Society of Utah believes this legislation is a step in the right direction to increase penalties for animal cruelty laws.

Originally, the bill proposed increasing cockfighting from its existing misdemeanor B penalty to a third degree felony on the first offense. A substitute was introduced on the House floor to water it down to a felony charge on the third offense. Being present at a cockfight is a class B misdemeanor.

Game fowl breeders are offered exemption under S.B. 134, which they do not have under the existing law.

“We wanted to see cockfighting pass as a felony on the first offense but this is a step in the right direction,” said Gene Baierschmidt, executive director of the Humane Society of Utah. “We do not condone this senseless act of animal cruelty and believe it should be treated the same as dogfighting.”

Until now, Utah was the only state in the West that did not have a felony charge for cockfighting. The existing misdemeanor penalty was not a deterrent for this activity and cockfighters have advertised Utah as the place to go for cockfighting because of its weak penalties.