Virginia Increases Penalty For Animal Cruelty To A Felony

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Governor Northam signed a bill increasing the penalty for animal cruelty to a felony.

According to The Hill, Governor Ralph Northam (D) signed a bill on Monday which increases the penalty for “cruelly or unnecessarily beating, maiming, mutilating, or killing a dog or cat.” The penalty is now a felony charge.

The bill, known as “Tommie’s Law” changes current stipulations which dictate that an animal needs to die for someone to be charged with a felony. The new law will go into effect on July 1.

The bill is being called “Tommie’s law” because it follows the death of a pit bull named Tommie who was tied to a pole in Richmond, Virginia before it was set aflame. Tommie died five days later at Richmond Animal Care and Control Shelter.

State Senator Bill DeSteph (R) said that he has been working on the piece of legislation ever since a dog in Virginia Beach was attacked with a machete three years ago.

"It should be named for every one of those cases," DeSteph said. "The crime matches the penalty. Not whether the dog lives or dies, the act of maliciously wounding or torturing a dog is the felony."

The measure was unanimously approved by the House of Delegates in February.

The issue of animal cruelty has been taken up at the federal leval as well. Florida Representatives Ted Deutch (D) and Vern Buchanan (R) introduced a bill this year to make engaging in animal cruelty a felony.

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