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Richmond Animal Care & Control makes last push for ‘Team Tommie’ license plate

Richmond Animal Care and Control wants to release license plates honoring Tommie the pit bull who died earlier this year, but they need 450 applicants to commit before a bill can be submitted to the General Assembly.

Capital News Service

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By McKenzie Lambert

A Virginia animal shelter wants to release a license plate in memory of Tommie the pit bull, who died after he was tied to a fence post and lit on fire, and the organization said it needs a final push to make it happen.

Richmond Animal Care and Control announced on its Facebook page late last month a license plate honoring the dog that captured hearts around the world. If approved, the plate would include a picture of an animated pit bull with the hashtag #TeamTommie and the organization’s logo.

Robin Young, RACC outreach coordinator, said the procedure to introduce a license plate into the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles is standard. First, at least 450 license plates must be preordered. If that goal is reached, a bill can be submitted to the General Assembly in 2020.

Young said that as of Thursday over 270 applications were received, with more coming in every day.

“We’ve definitely had a lot of support,” she said. “Now we just wait and see and promote it at this point to see if we can get the numbers.”

Young said $10 per plate would go directly to the Tommie Fund, along with portions of the annual renewal fee. The Tommie Fund was implemented recently to help other shelters across the state cover emergency medical costs for animals in their care.

It’s been almost a year since Tommie died. Jyahshua A. Hill was convicted of felony animal cruelty for chaining Tommie to a fence post in February, dousing him in a flammable liquid and then setting him on fire after saying the dog attacked his child.

Tommie was rescued by the firefighters stationed across the street, who ran over with a fire extinguisher, RACC said. The pit bull suffered burns on 40% of his body. RACC helped get Tommie to the Virginia Veterinary Center, and the VCU Medical Center Evans-Haynes Burn Trauma ICU assisted in his care as well. He died five days later, but not before his story spread globally and generated thousands of dollars in donations.

Enough money came in that the shelter could offer a $25,000 reward to help find and convict his attacker. After his death, both chambers of the General Assembly unanimously passed a bill — already introduced before Tommie’s attack — to increase the penalty for animal abuse from a misdemeanor to a Class 6 felony, which can draw up to five years in prison. Senate Bill 1604, introduced by Sen. Bill DeSteph, R-Virginia Beach, became known as “Tommie’s Law.”

Tommie’s story lives on through fundraisers, commemorations — a patio and a beer named in his honor — and t-shirts. All of which combined has raised well over $100,000 to continue funding RACC’s community work.

Katie Wittman, manager at Three Notch’d Brewing’s Broad Street location, said that Tommie’s Beer was a huge success and people from all over the East Coast called to ask about it. Portions of the beer sales were donated to Tommie’s Fund.

RACC has until Dec. 31 to collect and submit the 450 preordered license plate applications needed before legislation can be introduced in the General Assembly for the official plates in 2020. The cost is $25 for a regular plate and $35 for a personalized plate.

As of now, no legislators have agreed to sponsor the legislation, but Young is confident there won’t be any issues getting someone to sign on and getting the plates released.

Young said Tommie’s case has been “kind of above and beyond the norm for us.”

“We expected people to be touched and outraged by it, but the amount of support and outrage received was even surprising for us — the level we got.”

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The Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute their stories, photos, and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.

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Crime

Richmond Police, Mayor Stoney apologize after tear gas deployed before curfew on protesters

Protesters took to the streets of Richmond again Monday night and were met with a forceful response and the deployment of tear gas by Richmond Police – an action for which the department and Mayor Stoney later apologized.

RVAHub Staff

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Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Richmond again Monday afternoon and evening to speak out after the death of George Floyd. The group organized near both the Robert E. Lee and J.E.B. Stuart Monuments on Monument Avenue and remained mainly peaceful until police approached demonstrators at the Lee statue and deployed tear gas, as can be seen below from the below Twitter video from VPM.

Around the same time, reports began coming in that protesters at the Stuart monument were attempting to bring it down. A young demonstrator scaled the base of the statue and took what appeared to be a hack saw to the leg of the monument’s horse in an effort to bring it down. Police responded by calling on protesters to stand down, citing the weight of the monuments and their potential to crush bystanders.

Richmond Police and Mayor Levar Stoney later apologized for the deployment of tear gas on peaceful protesters – well below the 8:00 PM curfew – saying it was uncalled for and inviting protesters to City Hall at noon Tuesday to “apologize in person.” For its part, RPD said the officers involved had been “removed from the field” and would be subject to disciplinary action.

The protesters then continued marching down Franklin Street, then W. Broad Street, where things fizzled out around 10:30 PM near 14th Street.

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Business

Department of Public Utilities encourages reopening businesses to flush water before use

As businesses prepare to reopen on Friday, the utility encourages the flushing of internal pipes before any water use resumes.

RVAHub Staff

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The City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has been providing safe drinking water during the COVID-19 pandemic and it remains a priority. As businesses prepare to reopen on Friday, the utility encourages the flushing of internal pipes before any water use resumes.

With non-essential business being closed due to COVID-19 since March, water has been sitting in pipes. This water can lose the benefits of necessary disinfection, which could lead to bacteria growth and thus unsuitable for drinking, hand washing, or other uses. Additionally, turning on water after prolonged closures could disrupt plumbing materials and release contaminants into the water.

“To ensure fresh water is being used by newly reopening businesses, we strongly encourage them to flush the water in their systems. This is important to maintain the public health and safety of all residents and visitors,” says DPU Director Calvin D. Farr, Jr.

This process includes running water through all faucets, fountains, and other water treatment/enhancement systems with both hot and cold water for several minutes before using.

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Business

Stoney: City to “cautiously move” into Phase 1 of reopening plan on Friday, May 29th

On Thursday, Mayor Stoney announced that the City of Richmond will cautiously move into Phase 1 of Forward Virginia, the state’s reopening plan. Masks will be required in all indoor spaces and restaurants will be asked to voluntarily connect patrons’ information for contact tracing purposes.

RVAHub Staff

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On Thursday, Mayor Stoney announced that the City of Richmond will cautiously move into Phase 1 of Forward Virginia, the state’s reopening plan.

“When I look at the picture in totality, given the added tools at our disposal, the current trends in our local data and my faith in Richmonders to look out for one another, I believe that Richmond can cautiously move into Phase 1 on Friday, May 29,” said Mayor Stoney at Thursday’s press conference.

During the first delay that the City of Richmond requested, the Stoney administration and Richmond City Health District expanded testing efforts, implemented a contact tracing effort, ensured every COVID-19 positive Richmonder will be able to isolate safely and securely with supported isolation, and advocated for a statewide mask requirement.

The city initially requested a modified Phase 1 reopening that maintained restrictions on places of worship and personal care and grooming services, as mass gatherings and close personal contact for extended periods of time both significantly increase chance of community spread.

Because the governor denied the city’s modified plan for reopening, Richmond will move into Phase 1 of Forward Virginia, the state’s reopening plan, with strong recommendations reflecting the mayor’s proposed modifications. Local guidance and helpful links to state guidance are available here. The state has yet to provide guidance on what Phases 2 and 3 will include.

The mayor detailed a number of best practices for residents and business owners to ensure that the city moves into Phase 1 cautiously. The best practices emerged from conversations between the Stoney administration and members of the business community, faith leadership, and health professionals.

  1. All residents who are medically able to should wear a face-covering that covers the mouth and nose when in public spaces. The wearing of a face covering does not negate the need for 6-foot social distancing.
  2. Faith communities should continue to meet virtually if possible. If in-person meetings are absolutely necessary, the mayor strongly recommends faith groups meet outside while practicing strict social distancing and enforcing the face-covering requirement.
  3. Food and drink establishments that choose to offer outdoor service at half capacity are asked to request a name and contact information of patrons who dine in for contact tracing purposes. This practice is voluntary for both patrons and restaurants. However, collecting this small amount of information for each dine-in party will go far in assisting the Richmond City Health District in tracing and containing outbreaks. Guidance on this practice is available here.

The mayor made two requests of the state: to continue to assist the city in further expanding testing capacity and in providing adequate face-coverings and hand sanitizer throughout the capital city.

“Quite frankly, we’re going to need more support from the state for our residents and our businesses to reopen safely and sustainably,” the mayor noted in his appeal. “I make these recommendations and requests of the state because, as has been my mantra this entire pandemic. Reopening should be slow and steady.”

“When public health is on the line, blindly pushing forward is not an option. Decisions must be thoughtful, and they must be based in our collective knowledge of and love for our city.”

See more reopening guidance for local businesses here: www.rvastrong.org/reopeningguidance.

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