Virginia governor Ralph Northam signed a new law Monday that makes all forms of animal cruelty a felony.
The law goes into effect July 1.
Previously, the state required the animal to die as a result of the mistreatment to qualify as a felony.
Under the new law, anyone who “tortures, willfully inflicts inhumane injury or pain,” or “cruelly and unnecessarily beats, maims or mutilates any dog or cat” can be found guilty of a Class-6 felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.
“This bill allows our officers to prosecute cruelty regardless of lifesaving medical interventions,” Christie Chipps Peters, director of Richmond Animal Care and Control, told ABC News in a statement. “We are grateful to everyone that made this change a reality.”
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.
The bill was dubbed “Tommie’s law” after a pitbull was tied to a pole, doused in accelerant, and set on fire in Richmond in February.
Tommie was rescued by animal control but died five days later. Authorities are still searching for whoever was involved and are offering a $25,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.
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