This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
After years of legislative fights, the Senate gave final passage Wednesday to a bill that imposes tougher penalties on cockfighting.
The Senate voted 17-7 to pass SB134, and sent it to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature.
The bill would make cockfighting a felony, but only on the third offense. Senate Minority Leader Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, had sought to allow charging a felony on the first offense, but the House watered it down.
"It's been a long time coming," Davis said about the bill passing, adding he was tempted to celebrate by doing the chicken dance on the Senate floor.
Even though watered down, he said "it sends the message that with 48 other states … we don't want cockfighting here in Utah."
It came a day after some raucous debate on the bill in the House.
House Majority Whip Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, said he had voted against the cockfighting bill every time it had come to the House, but Utah is the only state in the West where it is not a felony to engage in cockfighting and having it as a misdemeanor does not deter people from doing it.
Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, said he had opposed the bill in the past, but called himself a "convert," and said the bird fights should not be treated "like a sideshow on the way to KFC," and called it "one of the most reprehensible, heinous things."
Rep. Earl Tanner, R-West Jordan, attacked the bill saying, "We eat a lot of chicken nuggets around here, guys, and the thought that what these cockfighters are doing is worthy of being a felony is a little bit absurd."
The roosters that fight, he said, are doing what comes naturally and, "when the end finally comes they're not being strapped upside down inside a huge factory," they go eye-to-eye with another bird.