By Haley Sotelo
Capitol West News
SALT LAKE CITY ― The House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee passed a bill that increases penalties for cock fighting, despite a large vocal audience opposing the measure.
“This isn’t a casual, two birds just kind of meet on the road and get into a fight” Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake, said. The bill has only two more steps — a majority vote on the House floor and the governor’s signature — before it becomes law. A similar bill failed to pass the Legislature during the 2014 session.
Although, there has not been a citation for cock fighting in the state of Utah in 13 years, the focal point of the bill is to discourage it by keeping the first offense at a misdemeanor but having the second offense be a felony.
Cock fighting involves roosters being forced to fight each other to the death. Their spurs, or back toes, are either whittled down and strapped with instruments. These instruments have spikes that are meant to allow the rooster to seriously inflict pain and harm on the other rooster when pitted against it. Furthermore, the roosters are also injected with stimulants and they are placed in a pit where they fight to the death.
“It’s a very bloody bloody sport and I don’t think it’s a part of our culture to allow this to happen,” Davis said.
These events include gambling, another illegal activity, over which rooster will win and allows the owners of the roosters to make money. These events also sometimes include alcohol, drugs, and the presence of children as it is seen as a family event.
“We’ve left ourselves open to be the cock-fighting capital of the West,” Davis said as it was discussed that cock fighting is a felony in most states.
Davis, the sponsor of this bill, seeks to make the consequence for second offense cock fighting a third-degree felony which would include jail time and a fine which would permanently affect the offender’s life as it would be on their personal record.
“Once we make this a felony, they will no longer come to our state,” Sundays Hunt, state director of The Humane Society, said people come Utah to fight their roosters. “They seek out the weakest penalty state and beyond Mississippi and Alabama, right now, we’re it. We’re the third weakest penalty state in the nation.”
Gene Baierschmidt, also from The Humane Society of Utah, claimed that weaker penalties encourage people to come to Utah for cock fighting and that the state should be know for other tourist attractions, not for game fowl fights. Also, according to Hunt, this sport brings with it a culture of violence that is taught to children as they are taught to torture roosters and, thus, it correlates with domestic violence within the home.
Jerry Williams disagreed. She is married to a man who comes from a family that raises game fowl and is involved in cock fighting. “The culture of cock fighting does not affect families in any way, shape, or form other than bringing them closer together,” she said.
The bill passed favorably 9:2.