The Utah Legislature should tighten penalties for cockfighting to prevent the Beehive State becoming a haven for this disgusting illegal activity.
A bill introduced by Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, was defeated in the last legislative session. Davis has pre-filed SB52 for 2014, the same bill that would have increased the penalty for cockfighting from a misdemeanor to a felony. For no good reason, Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, says he will oppose the legislation -- again.
States all around Utah's borders have gotten tough on the blood sport, which attracts illegal gambling and all the vices that go along with that. Those criminals who persist in training roosters to fight to the death and then putting on a show of the violent, bloody confrontations will naturally gravitate to Utah, where the penalties if they are caught are not much to worry about.
The "sport" is now a misdemeanor punishable with a maximum $1,000 fine -- the same fine for a second offense of failing to secure a load of trash or for unwittingly selling alcohol to a minor. Davis' bill rightly would make it a felony, subject to up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine, and the penalty would extend also to raising the birds to fight, as well as staging the shows. Those who do not raise or own the birds but participate in the contests could also be charged.
In this year's legislative session, Christensen criticized the bill, saying Utah shouldn't be so hard on cockfighters when abortion is legal. It was a ridiculous comparison, but it shows that Christensen's problem is not with the content of the bill but the fact a Democrat sponsored it. He immediately turned it into a partisan issue, when it should be no such thing.
Conservative Republicans in Utah, including Christensen, have no problem with making the purchase and consumption of alcohol, a legal substance, as difficult and uncomfortable as possible. So why not be just as hard on people determined to promote an illegal activity?
Utah is one of only two states where no type of gambling is legal. The Legislature would never permit a legal lottery or betting on horse racing. Illegal cockfighting does not exist just for people who enjoy watching two animals slash each other until one is dead. The fun of it mostly lies in betting on a particular rooster with the chance to win when its opponent dies a grisly death.
Alcohol and drugs also are usually part of the scene.
Do legislators really want Utah to become the go-to state for this kind of back-alley activity and everything that goes along with it? The Legislature should pass Davis' bill in its next session.
-The Salt Lake Tribune, June 17