HALIFAX COUNTY, Va. – Almost as quickly as Christen Waddle walked in front of a judge Wednesday morning for her arraignment, she was walking out of the courtroom breathing a sigh of relief.
The commonwealth attorney chose to drop the charges against her.
"I really didn't know what was going to happen," Waddle said.
On Dec. 26, she was arrested, charged with misdemeanor theft of an emaciated dog and felony theft of the dog's tracking collar.
Waddle said she was simply trying to rescue the dog when she picked it up out of the road six days earlier after seeing it nearly get hit by a car.
She believes the charges were unlawful, but Halifax County Animal Control Warden Todd Moser disagrees.
"Halifax County Animal Control stands behind it's decision of what we did. I stand behind the officer that was involved in the incident," Moser said.
But, he also supports the commonwealth attorney's decision.
"Myself and her have talked about this incident for the last couple of days. We conferred this morning," Moser said.
Late Wednesday afternoon, 10 News received an emailed statement from Commonwealth Attorney Tracy Quackenbush Martin. It said, in part:
"I requested copies of reports and other information, and they moved quickly to present that information to my office. After speaking with Chief T. Moser and Officer A. Claughton on several occasions, and after reviewing the facts fully, I concluded that the evidence did not indicate criminal intent as required by law."
What, specifically, led the animal control officer involved in the incident to believe that there was intent to steal the dog was unclear Wednesday.
Moser did say, however, when Waddle refused to give the dog back to the owner when the owner confronted her on the way to take the dog to animal control, that constituted theft.
Prior to being interviewed, Moser explained that he would not answer any questions and would only make a statement regarding his department's stance on the matter.
Now that she has effectively been cleared of any wrongdoing, Waddle is pursuing charges against animal control for what she says was her wrongful arrest.
On Wednesday afternoon, Waddle went to the animal shelter and informed Moser of her intent.
She said she is in contact with an attorney who reached out to her Wednesday morning after seeing our story.
"It makes me believe that someone in this state has common sense. Obviously, that's not in Halifax County," Waddle said.