Va. man convicted of animal cruelty after dog dies from cancer gets charge dismissed

FOX 5 Chief Investigative Reporter Emily Miller reports.

- A Stafford man was convicted of animal cruelty after their dog died from cancer. But this case has gotten worldwide attention because many feel he was wrongly convicted for it.

The Evans family said they loved their dog, Buxton, and he was a member of the family for ten years. Last summer, they were forced to put him down because he had terminal cancer.

“He was a great dog, he was a happy dog,” said Travis Evans. “He got plenty of love all through his entire life, all the way until the last day I took him in.”

A year ago, the Evans family noticed a lump on his paw. They took him to two veterinarians and spent $800. They had to amputate a toe and then they got the diagnosis.

“It was heartbreaking to know it was melanoma and how aggressive that type of cancer is for dogs,” said Aaren Evans.

They did not see Buxton in any pain until July when he had a seizure. But the dog rebounded so they kept him home. But four days after that, they saw that their dog was failing.

“It was awful because we never had to make that decision before,” said Aaren. “Growing up, we've always had pets that just passed peacefully in their sleep like we all hope to do. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case for Buxton.”

Travis brought Buxton to the county shelter. An animal control officer helped him transfer the dog inside.

“I was crying when I was unloading him from the vehicle, and he basically started asking me question after question,” Travis recalled. “Eventually it dried up my tears and I finally asked him, ‘What is the problem? Why are you asking me all these questions?’ He said I can charge you for animal cruelty because you did not take this dog to a veterinarian four days ago when you said it had one seizure.”

The officer took Buxton and euthanized him. Days later, that same officer delivered an arrest warrant to Travis at home. He was charged with animal cruelty. His trial was in October.

“They claim that I stood there and watched the dog while it had multiple seizures and did nothing about it until I decided to have him put down, which is completely false. He had one. We knew he was terminally ill with cancer.”

But the judge found Travis guilty of a misdemeanor. He immediately appealed and was slated for a jury trial in circuit court in February.

“We paid a great price already for what we believe to have done nothing wrong and they are still holding the charges over my head to prosecute me, to drag me all the way down.”

I called the commonwealth’s attorney for Stafford County about the case on Wednesday, but his office said they could not comment on a pending case.

But I received a call later in the afternoon from the lawyer for the Evans family. Jason Pelt told me that he got a call from Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Olsen at 4 p.m. and was told the charge against Travis Evans would be dismissed and prosecutors dropped off a form at the law offices to formally dismiss the charges.

Aaren Evans told us they are thrilled beyond words and "a lot of reporters have done this story. This must be what happens when FOX 5 calls."

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