Two dogs put on ‘death row’ in Maryland after allegedly killing cat

Around the previous calendar year, the pet dogs were being trapped at the Anne Arundel County Animal Treatment and Management facility in Millersville, waiting, though their homeowners vehemently maintained their innocence and fought for their launch.

“These canine have been sitting down on a doggy loss of life row for a criminal offense they didn’t do,” explained Stephanie A. Kimbrell, just one of the attorneys symbolizing the dogs’ house owners.

County officials disagreed, stating Lucy and Odin are vicious: Less than a county code recognised as “Lilo’s Regulation,” any animal considered vicious has to be euthanized. Just about every year, county animal regulate officers reported they have about 2,000 incidents that contain bites, scratches or animal attacks, and of these, less than 1 p.c of the animals are discovered to be vicious.

Odin and Lucy’s fight stands out as an unusually extended a person with county officials, say animal advocates in the place.

It pitted neighbor towards neighbor, drew a slew of social media followers like the county executive, together with pet enthusiasts and animal rescuers, and snagged the notice of media from New York to Detroit. Much more than 5,000 people signed an on the internet petition — hashtag #freeodinandlucy — that was sent to regional council users.

The dogs’ owners claimed they spent about $25,000 of their possess revenue and donated resources to pay back for two legal professionals and a fence that county officers ordered them to put up as the situation has wended its way as a result of 50 percent a dozen administrative hearings, appeals and in advance of a circuit court docket choose.

The circumstance, animal advocates say, is an illustration of what transpires when the electricity and tension of social media incorporate with a multibillion-dollar marketplace concentrated on human like for their animals.

“Most men and women really do not have the time or dollars or push to go at it this lengthy in combating for their animals,” claimed Wendy Cozzone, a longtime animal rescuer who’s also on the board of the Anne Arundel County Animal Welfare Council.

But Nola Lowman, a person of the dogs’ homeowners, stated she was established: “I drove by the pound likely 10 times a 7 days, and I’d say, ‘Odin and Lucy, I’m going to get you out of there.’ They are not just puppies to us, they are my household.”

The situation of Lucy and Odin began Jan. 29, 2021.

The pair escaped their ranch-fashion household, nestled off a winding road, immediately after Lowman left a door open up though she was vacuuming her front porch. The pet dogs went out of their lawn, past the family’s miniature goats, a cow, 50 percent a dozen chickens and a 250-pound Vietnamese potbellied pig named Porkchop, and into their neighbor Daniel Stinchcomb’s yard — about three-quarters of a mile absent.

Stinchcomb was working in his drop and read puppies growling and barking. When he went to examine it out, he saw Odin and Lucy with what he at 1st assumed was a raccoon but then understood was Massive Boy, his niece’s cat.

“Odin experienced Huge Boy in his mouth and [was] shaking him again and forth and Lucy was biting at Big Boy’s head,” Stinchcomb explained in a witness statement. An animal command officer inspected the cat’s system and noticed “several puncture wounds to the cat’s torso and armpit area,” in accordance to court filings. The officer wrote, “It appeared … that the cat’s neck was damaged.”

Quite a few attempts to reach Stinchcomb were unsuccessful.

Soon immediately after the cat was located dead, Lowman’s son — William Dillon Jr. — arrived to the space outdoors the drop, and when he was explained to of what occurred, animal regulate officers stated in courtroom filings that he was “very sympathetic.” He mentioned he was seeking for Lucy and Odin mainly because they experienced not “returned household ‘like they ordinarily do.’ ”

An animal manage officer explained to Dillon that as soon as he identified them he’d need to convey them to the county’s facility. Dillon located the puppies and took them in the following working day. The dogs experienced no “prior incidents” of biting a human or an animal, in accordance to a report from the animal command device. About two weeks later, Dillon was served with orders stating his puppies were “vicious” for the reason that they experienced “killed or inflicted serious injuries on a man or woman or domesticated animal” and they’d have to be place down. He could enchantment it but in the meantime, Lucy and Odin had to keep impounded.

“It’s like losing your youngsters,” claimed Dillon, 45, who performs as a construction foreman. “I took care of them and was normally playing with them. Then a person working day they’re gone.”

Bent on saving the dogs’ lives, Lowman and Dillon introduced a barrage of appeals to get the “vicious” label dropped. The scenario was lobbed again and forth in hearings, commissions and courts, but in the long run, “vicious” was upheld.

“Odin and Lucy have been not provoked. Odin and Lucy ended up not reacting to ache or personal injury. They had been not protecting or defending a human being. … They were not defending themselves, their litter, or yet another animal” the appeals board mentioned in its July 2021 choice. “We have no self-assurance that Odin and Lucy can be securely maintained without threatening other animals and we, therefore, designate Odin and Lucy as vicious. When an animal is determined to be ‘vicious’ it must be wrecked. … It is with deep regret that Odin and Lucy undergo this fate.”

Odin and Lucy’s scenario — and their lives — hinged on a 2017 incident and a legislation that was about to face a challenge.

Neighborhood guidelines all around euthanizing canine are generally handed right after regrettable incidents. In Anne Arundel, a pet dog named Lilo was killed in 2017 by yet another canine that was afterwards returned to its owner. In response, the county passed “Lilo’s Legislation,” which categorized animals that kill or lead to extreme harm to an additional domesticated animal or human as “vicious” — a label requiring the animal to be euthanized.

On the other hand, Lucy and Odin wouldn’t be euthanized until their proprietors experienced exhausted all of their appeals, so they went at it once more, this time using the services of two legal professionals — Kimbrell and her boss C. Edward Middlebrooks, who previously served as a Maryland senator and chair of the county council.

In court filings, the attorneys argued that Stinchcomb, the only eyewitness to the incident, experienced wrongly accused the pet dogs and that there was a deficiency of evidence to confirm Lucy and Odin have been the perpetrators. Plus, they said, there had been four dead cats found and coyote sightings in the community since Odin and Lucy were being place “behind bars.”

“Clearly, there is a cat serial killer in the community, but it is impossible for it to be Odin or Lucy,” they claimed in court filings.

The pet dogs, they argued, did not eliminate Major Boy but arrived on the cat immediately after it was presently useless and begun playing with it as if it had been a toy, and which is what Stinchcomb saw.

The case dragged on till mid-February, when just one of the lawyers gained an electronic mail from the county attorney’s place of work about building a deal.

Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman stated he’d read about the situation on social media and asked the county attorneys if it could be settled.

“I was shocked these two pet dogs would be on dying row,” Pittman said. “It ought to never ever have gotten that much.”

Pittman explained he strategies to question that the county’s rules on deeming animals vicious be examined to make confident there is “more place for popular sense and judgment.”

County lawyers declined to go over Odin and Lucy’s case.

On Feb. 18, Odin and Lucy’s lives have been spared and they have been freed, as Lowman and Dillon picked them up and took them residence. Dillon cried when he observed the puppies.

Nonetheless, the loved ones experienced to fulfill some ailments for their launch.

They’d be labeled “dangerous” instead of “vicious” for the reason that their homeowners experienced violated the county’s code on animals operating at significant. Lowman also experienced to install a six-foot-tall fence with wiring at the bottom and an “anti-climbing topper” to make positive they did not dig or climb their way out of their lawn.

On a modern afternoon, Lowman played with her canines in her fenced-in lawn and swelled with pleasure even as she recalled the pricey calendar year-lengthy battle for their return: “It was effectively value fighting for them. I’d do it yet again.”