VIRGINIA BEACH — The Virginia General Assembly put an end to Virginia Beach Animal Control’s and Sen. Bill DeSteph’s three-year struggle to raise penalties for cruelty to animals by passing Senate bill 1604 unanimously in both the state House and the Senate.
SB 1604, or more commonly known as “Tommie’s Law,” will make animal cruelty a Class-6 felony, a substantial change over its current status as a misdemeanor offense, unless the cruelty results in the death of the animal.
A Class-6 felony can result in prison time of not less than one year nor more than five years, or in the discretion of the jury or the court trying the case without a jury, confinement in jail for not more than 12 months and/or a fine of not more than $2,500, according to state law.
“We are thankful for the overwhelming support for SB 1604, my Animal Cruelty bill seeking felony charges against those who maliciously wound an animal,” DeSteph said. “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.”
DeSteph noted, “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, we are grateful that their stories helped propel this important legislation forward.”
Virginia Beach Animal Control did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The bill now advances to the governor’s office for signature.