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Shelter director: Tommie the dog continues to save lives 1 year after his death

'A year ago today we lost the fight...'
Posted at 9:59 PM, Feb 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-15 21:59:29-05

RICHMOND, Va. – Saturday marks one year since one of the most unimaginable cases on animal abuse shook the River City, the nation and the world.

Tommie the dog died on Feb.15, 2019 after he was tied to a fence, doused in gasoline and set on fire at Richmond's Abner Clay Park.

The brindle pit bull, who was named by his rescuers, stopped breathing after his bandages were changed on Feb. 15.

“A year ago today we lost the fight in our efforts to save Tommie...,” Richmond Animal Care and Control (RACC) posted on Facebook on Saturday morning. “Today, we can win the fight to save other animals lives across the country.”

Shelter officials urged those touched by Tommie’s story to visit their local animal shelter.

“Donate supplies (blankets, bleach, toys, cat litter etc.), take the hardworking staff a snack, sponsor an adoption, become a volunteer, foster or adopt a pet in Tommie's honor,” officials urged.

RACC officials noted that their shelter has been “blessed with so many things ” in the wake of the tragedy.

“If you made a donation to our shelter or if you bought a t-shirt, I think we really made people feel the reality of their gift to us was changing lives,” RACC Director Christie Chipps Peters said.

Peters said Tommie’s story has had a profound impact and even led to Tommie’s Law, which increased the penalty for all animal cruelty to a Class 6 felony -- a charge carrying a sentence of up to five years in prison or a $2,500 fine.

Peters previously said the crime has helped change a narrative among residents.

"There wasn't a real trust with the animal control field before. It was more of a dog catcher mentally of, 'Don't call animal control because they're going to catch my dog and kill it,'" Peters said in an interview in August. "I think we have pivoted in a huge way of, 'Call animal control and we will save it.'"

Peters said tips about possible animal cruelty and neglect cases have more than doubled.

"We have people coming out of the woodwork ratting out their neighbors," Peters said.

Twenty-year-old Jyahshua Hill, who admitted to killing Tommie the dog, pleaded guilty in August to felony animal cruelty.

As a part of a plea deal, Hill received a maximum 5-year sentence, without the possibility of parole. He will have three years of post-release supervision by the court.

He was also banned from owning a companion animal for the rest of his life.

Hill was arrested by the U.S. Marshals Regional Fugitive Task Force on May 20 and charged with felony animal cruelty following a months-long investigation into the death of Tommie.

Hill admitted to arresting officers to setting the dog on fire.

"We believe justice was served and it's definitely a victory for animal activists and Tommie's memory," Richmond Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Denise Anderson said after the plea hearing. "The evidence was overwhelming."

Anderson credited exhaustive investigation efforts by Richmond Animal Care and Control (RACC), Richmond Police and Fire as well as the Commonwealth's Attorney Office.