Attempted rescue of dog leads to charges against Halifax County woman

Christen Waddle says she has been charged with crimes she did not commit

HALIFAX COUNTY, Va. – Halifax County resident Christen Waddle is worried she'll soon be back behind bars for what she claims was simply an attempt to rescue a dog.

"I laughed and said, 'Charges on me?' He said, 'Yes, ma'am,'" Waddle said as she recalled her reaction to finding out that she was facing charges for her actions.

Waddle wasn't laughing for long.

Six days after seeing the emaciated dog nearly get hit by a car, she was hit with felony and misdemeanor theft charges.

"I was booked (into jail), fingerprinted, mug-shotted, humiliated," Waddle said.

Waddle wanted to help the dog, so she put it in her car and tried to contact the owner.

"I did try to contact animal control and the owner prior to the dog even getting in my car," Waddle explained.

But after failing to get in touch with the owner, she headed for Halifax County Animal Control.

Unbeknownst to Waddle, the dog's owner had been tracking the animal by the signal in a tracking collar and confronted her at a local gas station.

Animal control responded and took the dog, but gave it back to the owner the next day.

The owner had the dog checked out by a local veterinarian.

The dog was found to have distemper and was subsequently euthanized.

Waddle said the owner didn't want to file charges, but the animal control officer who responded did.

She was later arrested for stealing the dog and its tracking collar.

"I don't know what to think about it. I am worried that I'm going to be sitting in jail for a crime I did not commit," Waddle said.

On Tuesday, 10 News called Halifax County's animal control warden to try to find out why charges were filed, but we did not get a response.

Additionally, 10 News e-mailed him, but again no response.

Danville Area Humane Society director Paulette Dean worries that this case could put animals in jeopardy.

"I fear that an unintended consequence could be that people will leave animals that need intervention on the streets rather than picking them up and taking them to a shelter," Dean said.

She believes taking an animal to an animal shelter is the best thing for people can do when they find a stray animal.

"In 2016," Dean said, "public shelters returned about 24,100 animals to their owners. Private shelters returned 720 animals to their owners, and home-based rescues returned 113. That tells me the best place for an animal to be returned to their owner is at the public animal shelter."

Waddle is now trying to raise $5,000 before her arraignment Wednesday so she can afford her own attorney.

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