After arrest of suspect, vet reflects on caring for dog who died after being set on fire

RICHMOND, Va. -- After months of heartache, Carrie Alspaugh is finding some comfort.

She remembers the February night when a badly burned pitbull, affectionately named Tommie by his rescuers, came into the Cary Street Veterinarian hospital where she worked as a vet tech.

"It was hard, I was there when he passed away," Alspaugh said. "Even in the years I've been doing this it's one of the hardest cases we've ever had."

Monday afternoon, Alspaugh learned that 20-year-old Jyahshua A. Hill of Richmond had been arrested for a crime that sparked outrage, not only in Richmond but around the world.

On February 10th, Richmond Police say Tommie had been taken to Abner Clay Park, tied to a chain link fence, doused with a flammable liquid and set on fire.

While he sustained burns over 40 percent of his body, there was hope. Veterinarians, doctors and nurses offered around the clock care and donations poured in from everywhere.

"I mean we'd never had a case that hit so many people.  I think it was such an evil act that we've never seen before so it garnered this collective group of people who've stayed the course with us," Christie Chipps Peters with Richmond Animal Care and Control said.

While all the love and support wasn't enough to save Tommie's life, it led to change.

Tommie's Law, passed just weeks after his death, makes animal cruelty a felony charge in Virginia.

It also rallied a community to seek justice.

"Justice has prevailed you know,  that's some good that comes of this," supporter Gary Small said.

"When he first got there and we were starting treatments with him, we would play music and get him settled and he would sleep and we'd play little songs for him where he looked peaceful," Alspaugh said. "I think we all thought he was going to make it and maybe we wanted him to have the life he deserved."

 

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