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A bill making it a felony to engage in cockfighting in Utah moved closer to passage, despite objections from some senators concerned about putting another felony crime on the books.

Currently, cockfighting is a misdemeanor in Utah. Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, is seeking to make it a third-degree felony, bringing it in line with surrounding states.

But some, like Sen. Allen Christensen, R-Ogden, said that bird-fights have "gone on for thousands of years," and making it a felony won't change it.

He said he could imagine two inmates in prison. "One says, 'I murdered my wife what did you do?'" Christensen said. "'I let my chicken fight with a neighbor's chicken.'"

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said that, with other states making it a felony, Utah has become a magnet for cockfighting, which he said is not the kind of economic development Utah wants.

Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Eagle Mountain, said the state already locks up too many people and has overburdened its court and prison system. Adding another law just drives the act into the shadows.

"Only government can create a black market and it empowers the cartels," said Madsen.

Senators voted 16-10 to move the bill to a final vote, likely next week. A similar bill passed the Senate last year, but did not make it through the House.

— Robert Gehrke