Northam signs ‘Tommie Law,’ upping animal cruelty punishment

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — If you’re charged with abusing an animal in Virginia, it will now be a felony following Governor Ralph Northam signing Tommie’s Law.

The new bill ups the penalty from a misdemeanor to a Class 6 felony, which carries a punishment of one to five years in prison. 

The new law closes a loophole that allowed the perpetrator to only be charged with a misdemeanor if the animal survived the abuse, animal rights advocates say.

Tommie was a pit bull who died after being tied to a pole and intentionally set on fire in a Richmond park.

“He fought a great fight and so did we,” says Robin Young, with Richmond Animal Care and Control.

“The case with Tommie, I think helped push it over the edge, Young said. “For people to see the worst of the worst that animal control can see.” 

Now that the law has changed, Erin Dears, a dog owner, sees it as a great first step, adding “it’s just really sad that we even need that in place to kind of move forward.”

Tommie’s story continues to circulate on social media, with more than $25,000 raised for information about who killed him. 

Thus far, no arrests have been made in the case. 

But for Young, the new law offers a bit of solace, saying “this makes it easier for us and the city and cities and counties across the state to push for harsher penalties.”

RELATED: Richmond City Council member calls for changes in park

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