Richmond Animal Care and Control

"Tommie's Law" Makes Animal Cruelty a Felony Charge in Virginia

This new law goes into effect on July 1. Gov. Ralph Northam signed the bill dubbed 'Tommie's Law,' making animal cruelty a felony in Virginia. The existing law requires the animal to die before someone is charged with a crime (if you can believe that). On July 1, all animal abusers will be found guilty of a class 6 felony offense. This means they can go to prison for up to five years and owe a fine of up to $2,500. This law applies to dogs and cats.  

There isn't a federal law in place that criminalizes animal cruelty though other than animal fighting and creating or distributing videos that show the killing or torture of animals.

The bill is named after, Tommie, a pit bull tied to a pole, and set on fire on February 10, 2019, in Richmond. He had burns over 40 percent of his body and a few days later he passed away. Does the punishment fit the crime? This is certainly a good place to start but it doesn't feel as severe as it should be in my book.

There is more good news though when it comes to animal cruelty.

ABC news tells us,

"Forty-eight U.S. states as well as Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands now have laws making certain types of animal cruelty a felony offense, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Virginia was the most recent."

The legislation will be shared with other state lawmakers and so the law can be introduced across the country.

Here are the details of the bill that passed:

Bill Summary: (The longer summary can be found here)

"Cruelty to animals; serious bodily injury; penalty. Provides that any person who tortures, willfully inflicts inhumane injury or pain not connected with bona fide scientific or medical experimentation, or cruelly and unnecessarily beats, maims, or mutilates any dog or cat that is a companion animal whether belonging to him or another and as a direct result causes serious bodily injury to such dog or cat is guilty of a Class 6 felony. Current law requires that the animal die for the person to be guilty of the felony. The bill incorporates SB 1276 and is identical to HB 1874."

If you're unfamiliar with the legislation, Senator Bill DeSteph (R-Virginia Beach) is responsible for pushing this law after a dog named Sugar in 2016 was brutally attacked with a machete in Virginia Beach.

What do you think? Are five years enough? Please leave a comment below. 

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