Virginia bill would make it a felony to abuse animals

- A new law could be coming to Virginia that would make a felony if a person abuses a pet, even if the animal survives the abuse.

Currently, if the pet survives the abuse, the crime is classified as a misdemeanor.

The proposed bill hits close to home for 20-year-old Manassas resident Merron Mears.

Mears said her former roommate, 59-year old Jean Claude Verboom, was caught on camera punching her cat Samantha.

RELATED: Woodbridge woman says surveillance camera captured neighbor beating her cat to death

“A roommate that I had been renting with was actually coming in my room and torturing her while I was at work because of the fact that I had taken her to vet and tried to save her,” Mears said. “If she had not ended up passing away, he would have been charged with just a misdemeanor.”

The alleged attack took place in May inside a home in Woodbridge and the calico tabby mix died. Verboom is now facing a felony animal abuse charge.

Sen. Bill DeSteph said he wants to guarantee a felony charge for all animal abuse, not just fatal animal abuse.

“It passed the subcommittee, it passed the full committee, it’s up in finance so the policy has pushed forward,” DeSteph explained. “Now, we have to make sure the money is there to handle the increase in felonies.”

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DeSteph said there are about 10 animal abuse felony cases a year and the financial impact on the Commonwealth would reportedly be $50,000 a year.

“If you torture a dog, you should be put in jail,” DeSteph said.

The bill was inspired after a dog in Virginia Beach named Sugar was allegedly maliciously cut with a machete by her owner. Sugar is alive today and her alleged attacker only had a misdemeanor charge for the attack.

“I believe the governor will be happy to sign this bill,” DeSteph stated.

Mears is back in court here to face Samantha's alleged killer in April. Authorities said he confessed to killing the cat, though it remains a mystery why.

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