Just before the adjournment of the Virginia General Assembly on Sunday, House Republicans passed legislation that would promote better protection of pets and animals. Would-be animal abusers also face harsher punishments if the bills are signed into law.

H.B. 1625, introduced by Delegate Robert D. “Bobby” Orrock, Sr., would extend legal protections for pets and animals in a mandated requirement for proper sheltering from the heat or cold. Current law only requires such shelter to protect the animal from the “adverse effects” of heat or cold.

According to the bill, a proper shelter must be suitable for the species, age, condition, size, and type of each animal, with adequate space. A space should allow each animal to “easily stand, sit, lie, turn about, and make all other normal body movements in a comfortable, normal position for the animal; and interact safely with other animals in the enclosure.” Animals should also be protected from “injury, rain, sleet, snow, hail, direct sunlight, the adverse effects of heat or cold,” further impairment, suffering, and without detriment to its physical condition.

The House passed the bill with an 84-15 vote, and the Senate passed it with a 38-2 vote.

H.B. 1626, also introduced by Delegate Orrock, would provide that an animal control officer shall confiscate a “tethered cock” if such fowl has been, is, or is intended to be used in animal fighting.

A person could be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor if they “promote, prepare for, engage in, or be employed in, the fighting of animals for amusement, sport, or gain,” attend an “exhibition” of animal fighting, allow any person to undertake such actions, or aid and abet in the engagement of animal fighting. One could be charged with a Class 6 felony if a multitude of the aforementioned provisions are violated.

The House passed the bill with an 80-18-1 vote, and the Senate passed it with a 38-1-1 vote.

Orrock’s H.B. 1827 would also ensure that tethered animals and pets be given adequate space. The bill provides that a tether is four times the length of the animal or 15 feet long, whichever is greater, and does not cause injury or pain or weigh more than one-tenth of the animal’s body weight.

Moreover, the walking of an animal or pet on a leash by its owner does not constitute tethering.

The bill was passed in the House by a 76-22 vote, but was defeated in the Senate.

H.B. 1874, patroned by Delegate Margaret Ransone (R-Westmoreland), would increase penalties for would-be animal abusers. The bill provides that any person who cruelly or unnecessarily causes serious bodily injury to a companion animal is guilty of a Class 6 felony.

If a humane investigator, law-enforcement officer, or animal control officer notices an animal has been abandoned, has been cruelly treated, or is suffering, they may lawfully seize and impound the animal to negate any direct and immediate threat to its life, safety, or health.

Her legislation passed through the House with a 92-1 vote, and garnered a unanimous 40-0 vote in the Senate.

The bills that passed both houses of the state legislature now move to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.