Virginians could face harsher punishment for animal abuse

Published: Feb. 20, 2019 at 3:12 PM EST
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People in Virginia could soon face harsher punishments for animal abuse just days after a dog in Richmond


On Wednesday,

. The bill will increase the penalty for cruelly or unnecessarily beating, maiming, mutilating, or killing a dog or cat from a class 1 misdemeanor to a class 6 felony.

“I don’t think the outcome should matter on this, if you beat or torture a dog, it’s a heinous act, and it leads to other heinous acts which should be a felony," said Senator Bill DeSteph, 8th District.

The bill was introduced two years ago by Sen. DeSteph, and its purpose was to protect animals that go through abuse – whether they live or die.

According to current law, a dog or cat has to die before the crime can be classified as a felony. A person convicted of this new law could face up to five years locked up.

“What this does is harshens the penalty based on the act," the senator said. "The act of beating or torturing a dog is a felony. So we do it on the act, not the outcome."

Dan Chevez, operations coordinator for Anicira in Harrisonburg, believes the bill is long overdue.

"This is absolutely a felony," Chevez said. "This leads to more drastic cases, not just against animals, but against people as well."

The passing of the bill comes as the Richmond community mourns

. He later died.

A similar bill, known as the Preventing Animal Cruel and Torture (PACT) Act, has also

to make animal cruelty a felony on a federal level.

Statement from DeSteph on Wednesday:

As for the

, a $25,000 reward remains active for information leading to the arrest of the person responsible for setting the pit bull on fire, but no arrests have been made.

Currently, an amendment to the bill is being discussed about the definition of bodily harm.

Copyright 2019 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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