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February 7, 2013

Poll Shows Utah Voters Strongly Favor Tougher Penalties for Illegal Cockfighting by Nearly 5-to-1 Margin

Animal advocates urge lawmakers to pass S.B. 52

ASPCA

  • The HSUS' John Goodwin holds a rooster rescued from a cockfighting raid.   Laura Bevan/The HSUS

A strong majority of Utah voters statewide want tougher penalties for cockfighting, with 70 percent in favor of a bill making cockfighting a felony crime, and only 15 percent opposed.  Supporters of the legislation outnumbered opponents by a nearly 5-to-1 margin, with strong majorities favoring the bill among every political affiliation, gender, and region of the state. The results of the poll, conducted by Mason Dixon Polling & Research Inc., were released ahead of a Utah State Senate Committee hearing and vote on proposed legislation that would make cockfighting penalties in Utah a felony crime.

"These survey results confirm Utah residents won't tolerate the cruelty of cockfighting or its association with gambling, drugs and other illicit crimes," said John Goodwin, director of animal cruelty policy for The HSUS. "An anemic penalty for such a serious crime is out of step with the mainstream values of Utah voters. The Humane Society of the United States urges legislators to pass S.B. 52."

Utah has one of the nation's weakest cockfighting laws. While the blood sport is a felony in 40 states, in Utah it is just a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum penalty of up to $1,000. That's just a minor cost of doing business for cockfighters who gamble large sums at these cruel events.

By an 11-to-1 margin (77 to 7 percent), Utah  voters are more likely to agree that cockfighting is animal cruelty and should be a felony crime, than to say cockfighting is a tradition and should be preserved — a smokescreen often voiced by criminals who back cockfighting. The majority of voters, 66 percent, also said they were more likely to support a political candidate who backs stronger penalties for cockfighting. The support for tougher penalties was strong regardless of race, gender or political affiliation.

"This survey confirms our belief that Utahns are compassionate people who truly care about the humane treatment of all animals in our state," says Gene Baierschmidt, executive director of the Humane Society of Utah.  "It is our hope that Utah's lawmakers will strongly consider the will of their constituents before voting on Senate Bill 52."

The majority of voters, 55 percent, also said they would support legislation limiting the length of time a dog can be tethered outside to no more than 10 hours a day, with only 33 percent opposed. Legislation on this issue is also moving along in the Utah Legislature.

 “Affixing sharp blades to animals and forcing them to fight to the death for entertainment and wagering is a bloody spectacle that cannot be abided in Utah,” said Deborah Foote, state director of ASPCA Government Relations for the Southwest region. “Weak penalties for cockfighting will make Utah a magnet for criminals. Compassion, as well as a desire for law enforcement’s ability to address cruelty, drug use, gambling, prostitution and other crimes associated with cockfighting, should all motivate lawmakers to move S.B. 52 swiftly to the governor’s desk.”

The statewide survey of 625 Utah voters was conducted Feb. 4-5, 2013, by Mason Dixon Polling & Research Inc., and the margin for error is plus or minus four percentage points. The survey questions and results are below.  

SURVEY

QUESTION: Cockfighting is an illegal activity where roosters fight to the death, with metal knives attached to their leg, and participants bet on the outcome. Cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states and a felony in 40 states.  Utah, however, has one of the weakest penalties for cockfighting in the nation. Would you support or oppose a bill that would increase the state penalty for cockfighting to a felony?

  STATE MEN WOMEN DEM REP IND SALT LAKE COUNTY REST OF STATE
SUPPORT 70% 56% 83% 91% 60% 72% 78% 65%
OPPOSE 15% 21% 9% 4% 20% 13% 13% 16%
UNDECIDED 15% 23% 8% 5% 20% 15% 9% 19%

      

QUESTION: If the legislature passed a bill that would increase the state penalty for cockfighting to a felony, would you support or oppose Gov. Gary Herbert signing the bill into law?

  STATE MEN WOMEN DEM REP IND SALT LAKE COUNTY REST OF STATE
SUPPORT 75% 60% 88% 93% 67% 74% 80% 71%
OPPOSE 13% 23% 4% 3% 17% 13% 11% 15%
UNDECIDED 12% 17% 8% 4% 16% 13% 9% 14%

                                         

QUESTION: Would you view your state legislators more favorably or less favorably if they voted for a bill that would increase the state penalty for cockfighting to a felony?

  STATE MEN WOMEN DEM REP IND SALT LAKE COUNTY REST OF STATE
MORE FAVORABLE 66% 55% 77% 81% 60% 66% 69% 65%
LESS FAVORABLE 15% 24% 6% 6% 17% 16% 16% 13%
NO DIFFERENCE 19% 21% 17% 13% 23% 18% 15% 22%

                                                     

QUESTION: Which of the following best describes your view about cockfighting in Utah: (ORDER ROTATED)

- Cockfighting is a big industry in parts of Utah that supports families and is a tradition that has been around for centuries.  Cockfighting should be preserved.

- Cockfighting is animal cruelty and its practice is associated with gambling, drugs and other illicit crimes. Cockfighting should be a felony crime in Utah.

  STATE MEN WOMEN DEM REP IND SALT LAKE COUNTY REST OF STATE
PRESERVE 7% 9% 6% 3% 10% 7% 6% 9%
FELONY 77% 68% 85% 91% 69% 78% 81% 74%
NOT SURE 16% 23% 9% 6% 21% 15% 13% 17%

                                                                                      

QUESTION: Under current law dogs can be left outside on a chain, or other form of tether, for an unlimited period of time. Would you support or oppose legislation limiting the length of time a dog can be left outside on a chain to a maximum of 10 hours per day?

  STATE MEN WOMEN DEM REP IND SALT LAKE COUNTY REST OF STATE
SUPPORT 55% 52% 57% 58% 54% 54% 60% 52%
OPPOSE 33% 42% 25% 26% 34% 36% 28% 36%
UNDECIDED 12% 6% 18% 16% 12% 10% 12% 12%

                                                                          

Facts:

  • Cockfighting is illegal in every state, and all animal fighting that affects interstate commerce is punishable as a federal felony under the Animal Welfare Act.
  • Common cockfighting practices include breeding birds for viciousness, drugging them to heighten aggression, and fitting their legs with deadly weapons—that is, razor-sharp knives or gaffs, which resemble curved ice picks.
  • Congress is considering legislation—the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act—to further strengthen the federal animal fighting law by making it a crime to be a spectator at a dogfight or cockfight, with additional penalties for bringing a child to the fight.

Media Contacts: Rebecca Basu, 240-753-4875, rbasu@humanesociety.org
Maureen Linehan, 646-706-4602, maureen.linehan@aspca.org

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