Woman says family dog died after being stabbed 5 times

Published: May. 9, 2018 at 4:46 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 6, 2018 at 10:29 AM EDT
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STAFFORD, VA (WWBT) - Rachel Brenke says her family's dog, Archer, was stabbed to death on May 1, after what turned into a brutal encounter with a man walking a trail near her Stafford home.

Brenke says Archer, a Rhodesian Ridgeback mix, was in her home's backyard with four of her young children. Brenke says a man walking a dog much larger than Archer, fatally stabbed Archer five times.

A press release from the Stafford County Sheriff's Office says Archer had jumped the fence.

Brenke says she and her family of five children are devastated. The family adopted Archer when he was six weeks old from a shelter in Texas, where Brenke's husband was stationed in the military. Brenke says Archer was with her every moment of the day. The dog ran by her side, as she trained for triathlons; she has since made Team U.S.A. to compete. Archer also helped Brenke through postpartum depression.

"He has been my buddy ever since. He has done everything with me," said Brenke. "He was gentle. He was always smiling."

The pair would run on a trail that passes right by the family's yard. It was near that same trail, Archer would lose his life.

Brenke said she heard barking and ran outside. She discovered that a man, walking his own dog, had stabbed Archer repeatedly. The dog was bleeding on the ground.

"Archer is laying on the ground. His entire chest was open. There was blood everywhere," said Brenke through tears.

Brenke says the man said, "Your dog jumped the fence, so I stabbed him."

Brenke held Archer in her arms, as he took his final breaths, bleeding out.

"We were trying to keep Archer alive. I mean, my neighbor had his hand in Archer's chest, trying to stop the blood," she said.

The Stafford County Sheriff's Office says the dog had a history of aggressive behavior, and that the family was made aware of previous incidents involving the dog.

Brenke says she has no idea what incidents detectives are referring to, and she maintains Archer was never aggressive.

The Stafford County Sheriff's Office says the man involved, Richard Rowe, alleges Archer jumped the fence and charged him. Rowe told detectives Archer attempted to bite him and his dog. Rowe says he stabbed Archer in self-defense.

Rowe is now facing a misdemeanor animal cruelty charge. The misdemeanor charge carries up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

He's due in court.

"I don't believe the charges are severe enough. I don't believe we have gotten any help from the people who are supposed to be representing the people, and protecting the citizens of this county," continued Brenke.

Brenke and her husband were charged with "having a destructive or annoying dog running at large," but were found not guilty on June 5.

Since Archer died, Brenke, an attorney, has created the site Archer's Advocates, as well as a Facebook page.

Archer's Advocates aims to create legislation strengthening laws in Virginia to protect pets and create a statewide animal abuser registry.

"The entire goal is to change the laws, so our dogs, our companions, our cats, are better protected than the replaceable property that you can buy at the local dealership," Brenke said.

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