STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. - A man who fatally stabbed a neighbor's dog will face trial in Stafford County, Va.
The dog had jumped the fence. The man claimed he was only defending himself.
"He was my best buddy. He ran with me; we ran hundreds of miles on these trails. We never felt scared. We would pass other dogs; he never displayed aggression. He loved other animals," said Rachel Brenke, who has only memories of her beloved rescue dog Archer.
"He was with me every single day. I love him, and I miss him and our heart has been ripped out," she said.
Two weeks ago, Archer was in the Brenke's backyard with the family's other dog and four of the Brenke's five children, ages 3 to 8.
The Brenke's have a physical fence and electronic fencing. They live right next to a pathway. On the evening of May 1, a man came walking along with his dog. That's when Archer jumped the fence.
"As they were barking, I came outside to bring the dogs and the kids in for the evening and saw that Archer was over the fence, which was extremely uncharacteristic. I ran up to apologize to the guy that Archer was out, not understanding at all what had happened. And the guy looks me in the face and calmly, while he's holding his really large dog's leash, goes, 'Your dog jumped the fence. So, I stabbed him," explained Brenke.
Archer ran to the corner where he collapsed. Rachel ran to him and was shocked at what she found: five stab wounds. One was a significant slice. He was bleeding profusely.
"There was blood trails where he collapsed, and he was in a pool of blood," she said.
The Stafford County Sheriff's Office said a four-inch pocket knife was used.
Richard Stephen Rowe, who lives about a mile away from the Brenkes, has been charged with animal cruelty. It's a Class 1 misdemeanor that carries up a year in jail. But he told authorities he acted in self defense and that Archer was attacking him and his dog.
But Brenke said Rowe never told her anything about Archer attacking them.
"I didn't see the knife. I didn't see any defense wounds. His dog was just standing there," said Brenke. She and her husband are charged with a lesser misdemeanor, allowing a destructive dog to run at large. But they are fighting it.
In a statement, the Stafford County Commonwealth's Attorney said the investigation revealed that Archer had a history of aggressive behavior prior to the May 1 incident. The Brenkes strongly disagree.
"I would never have let my children, over six years, let all my children play with a dog that was supposedly so vicious, and has a history? There's no history. There's none. We don't believe that jumping a fence is enough to qualify for aggression to rise to the level of taking a living, breathing dog's life," Brenke said.
She is so angry about it she started an organization to push for creating an animal abuser's registry in Virginia, similar to a sex offender registry. It would make it unlawful for people on the list to own pets.
WUSA9 tried to reached Rowe, who is charged in the fatal dog stabbing, but we were unable to get ahold of him.