RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — It’s been one year since Tommie, the pit bull tied to a Richmond park fence and intentionally set on fire, met a tragic end.
Richmond Animal Care and Control (RACC) said the male brindle pit bull was tied to a pole, covered in accelerant and intentionally set on fire in Abner Clay Park on West Clay Street at about 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 10, 2019. He died five days later.
Reflecting on Tommie’s story, and how so many people were impacted by his death, Richmond Animal Care and Control’s Christie Peters says “a lot has changed.”
“One life lost has saved so many,” Peters said.
Public outrage followed Tommie’s death, impacting thousands across the world. Peters credits social media as a driving force in bringing Tommie’s story – and calls for change – to the spotlight.
“It was pivotal for us being able to say this is exactly what’s happening, this is how we’re feeling about it and we need your help,” she said.
RACC gained 30,000 new followers on Facebook in just months. “Our adoption numbers have soared, our donations have soared,” Peters said. The $100,000 raised from #TeamTommie t-shirts established the Tommie Fund, which helps save other animals around the state, Peters added.
“Any municipal shelter in the state of Virginia can apply to be a part of that fund,” she said. “And then we pay the medical bill for anyone in need.”
Peters said almost 300 more animals were adopted in 2019 than in previous years.
In the aftermath of Tommie’s death, Virginia law officials passed a bill making animal cruelty in Virginia a felony.
“It definitely did move that bill forward,” Peters said.
Marsha Rodgers, who owns the Henrico cemetery where Tommie was laid to rest, said Tommie will not soon be forgotten.
“He’s always in the back of our minds when we try to help an animal or pet,” she told 8News. “He’s there. He’s always there. He’s always gonna be there.”
As for the present, a Team Tommie license plate is still being considered during the General Assembly. Jyahshua A. Hill, the man who was accused and later found guilty in burning the dog, was sentenced to five years in prison. He will never be allowed to own an animal again.