On Wednesday, lawmakers in Virginia are set to pass a law making animal cruelty to a family pet, regardless of whether the animal lives or dies, a felony and imposing stiffer punishments for abusers.
The news comes just days after the death of a young pit bull named Tommie who captured the hearts and tears of animal lovers across the United States. Tommie had been viciously tortured and killed in Richmond. Until now, the only way to charge someone with a felony count for abusive treatment to a dog or cat depended if the animal died from its injuries.
S.B. 1604 Cruelty to Animals increases punishments:
SUMMARY AS PASSED SENATE: (all summaries)
Cruelty to animals; aggravated cruelty; penalty. Increases from a Class 1 misdemeanor to a Class 6 felony the penalty for cruelly or unnecessarily beating, maiming, mutilating, or killing a dog or cat. Current law requires that the dog or cat die as a direct result of torture, or inhumane injury or pain, before the violation is a Class 6 felony. The bill incorporates SB 1276.
If the bill is enacted, a person who abuses a domestic pet could receive up to five years in prison. The bill also includes crimes identified as Class 1 misdemeanors which would include “depriving any animal of necessary food, drink, shelter of emergency veterinary treatment, willfully inflicting inhumane injury to any animal, and soring an equine for any purpose.”
The legislation sponsored by Senator Bill DeSteph (R-Virginia) has been an ongoing project for the last three years after a dog named Sugar had been attacked with a machete in Virginia Beach.
As for the tragic case involving Tommie, the dog had been tied to a fence in a park on February 10, doused with an accelerant and set on fire. He suffered burns on 40 percent of his body. Richmond Animal Care and Control, with a team of dedicated veterinary professionals, worked round-the-clock to save his life. Tommie suddenly and unexpectedly died five days later when his body just couldn’t fight anymore.
The person(s) responsible for the egregious abuse has not been found. Memorials continue to grow, and all week people have been paying their respects and donating to Tommie’s memory. A $25,000 reward has been offered for the arrest and conviction of the person who tortured this dog.
The bill passed unanimously and cleared both chambers without a vote against it. Governor Ralph Northam (D-Virginia) is expected to sign the legislation.
Rest in peace Tommie.
Oh my, the sweetness!