Virginians to face harsher punishment for animal abuse

Virginians to face harsher punishment for animal abuse
Tommie suffered burns to 40 percent of his body and died after a nationwide outpouring of love and support.

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - People in Virginia will soon face harsher punishments for animal abuse just days after a dog in Richmond was cruelly killed.

On Wednesday, Senate bill 1604 passed the house with a unanimous 99-0 vote. The bill will increase the penalty for cruelly or unnecessarily beating, maiming, mutilating, or killing a dog or cat from a class 1 misdemeanor to a class 6 felony.

“I don’t think the outcome should matter on this, if you beat or torture a dog it’s a heinous act, and it leads to other heinous acts which should be a felony," said Senator Bill DeSteph, 8th District.

The bill was introduced two years ago by Senator Bill DeSteph, and its purpose was to protect animals that go through abuse – whether they live or die.

Currently, the dog or cat needed to die before the crime was a felony. The new bill now heads to the governor’s desk.

“What this does is harshens the penalty based on the act. The act of beating or torturing a dog is a felony. So we do it on the act, not the outcome,” the senator told us.

The passing comes as the Richmond community mourns the death of Tommie, a dog that was tied to a pole and set on fire at Abner Clay Park. He later died.

Statement from DeSteph on Wednesday:

“We are thankful for the overwhelming support for SB 1604, my Animal Cruelty bill seeking felony charges against those who maliciously wound an animal.  We have heard from folks all over the Commonwealth who share our belief that anyone who intentionally tortures a dog or cat is a threat to public safety, and should be dealt with severely.  We were so saddened by the stories of Tommie, the pit bull who recently died after being set on fire, and Sugar, who was viciously attacked with a machete, but are grateful that their stories helped propel this important legislation forward.” 
– Senator Bill DeSteph, 8th District

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