The bill, signed by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on Monday, will come into effect on July 1, WSLS-TV reported.
Named “Tommie’s Law,” after a pit bull who was attached to a fence and deliberately set ablaze in a Richmond park in February, the bill raises coldblooded and superfluous “beating, injuring, mangling, or murdering a pooch or feline” to a Class 6 lawful offense accusation. Prior enactment had stipulated an animal needed to die due to maltreatment to be viewed as a lawful offense in the state.
Tommie the pit bull extreme and severe burns on more than 40 percent of his body after he was splashed with flammable liquid and set alight. He was rescued and his injuries treated, but the dog died five days later.
Virginia State Sen. Bill DeSteph (R), who introduced Tommie’s Bill, said he’d been crafting the legislation since 2016 when a dog named Sugar was attacked with a machete.
Proud to have introduced #SB1604. If you abuse a dog, you belong in jail. With 1 week remaining in 2019 Session, I am working to ensure we have the support needed in the House to turn this important bill into law. #AnimalCruelty #AnimalAdvocacy #JusticeforTommie #TommiesLaw https://t.co/UzTI4agHoB— Bill DeSteph (@BillDeSteph) February 18, 2019
“It should be named for every one of those cases,” DeSteph told WTVR-TV of the bill. “The crime matches the penalty. Not whether the dog lives or dies, the act of maliciously wounding or torturing a dog is the felony.”According to the Humane Society of the United States, certain types of animal cruelty are considered felony offenses in 48 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.