For the past year, the dogs have been stuck in the Anne Arundel County Animal Control and Welfare Facility in Millersville, waiting, while their owners vehemently claimed their innocence and fought for their release.
“These dogs were seated on dog death row for a crime they did not commit,” said Stephanie A. Kimbrell, one of the attorneys representing the owners of the dogs.
County officials disagreed, saying Lucy and Odin were vicious: Under a county code known as “Lilo’s Law,” any animal deemed vicious must be euthanized. Each year, county animal control officials say they have about 2,000 incidents involving animal bites, scratches, or attacks, and of those, less than 1 percent of the animals are found to be vicious.
Odin and Lucy’s battle stands out as unusually long with county officials, say area animal advocates.
It pitted neighbor against neighbor, drew a host of social media followers including the county executive, as well as pet lovers and animal rescuers, and garnered media attention from New York to Detroit. More than 5,000 people signed an online petition – hashtag #freeodinandlucy – which was sent to local council members.
The owners of the dogs said they spent about $25,000 of their own money and donated funds to pay for two attorneys and a fence that county officials ordered them to put up as the case made its way to through half a dozen administrative hearings, appeals and before a circuit court judge.
The case, animal advocates say, is an example of what happens when the power and pressure of social media combine with a multi-billion dollar industry focused on human love for their pets.
“Most people don’t have the time or the money or the pressure to fight that long for their pets,” said Wendy Cozzone, a longtime animal rescuer who also sits on the board. Board of Directors of the Anne Arundel County Animal Welfare Council.
But Nola Lowman, one of the dogs’ owners, said she was determined: “I was driving to the pound probably 10 times a week, and I was like, ‘Odin and Lucy, I’m going to get you out of there.’ are not just dogs to us, they are my family.
The Lucy and Odin affair began on January 29, 2021.
The couple escaped from their ranch-style home, tucked away on a winding road, after Lowman left a door open while she was vacuuming her porch. The dogs came out of their yard, past the family’s miniature goats, a cow, half a dozen chickens and a 250-pound Vietnamese pig named Porkchop, and into their neighbor Daniel Stinchcomb’s yard – about three quarter miles.
Stinchcomb was working in his shed and heard dogs growling and barking. When he went to check, he saw Odin and Lucy with what he first thought was a raccoon, but then realized it was Big Boy, his niece’s cat.
“Odin had Big Boy in his mouth and [was] shaking it back and forth and Lucy was biting off Big Boy’s head,” Stinchcomb said in a witness statement. An animal control officer inspected the cat’s body and saw “several puncture wounds on the cat’s torso and armpits,” according to court documents. The officer wrote: “It appeared…the cat’s neck was broken.
Several attempts to reach Stinchcomb failed.
Shortly after the cat was found dead, Lowman’s son – William Dillon Jr. – came to the area outside the shed, and when told what had happened, officials from the Animal Control said in court papers that he was “very friendly.” He said he was looking for Lucy and Odin because they hadn’t “gone home ‘like they normally do’.”
An animal control officer told Dillon that once he found them, he should bring them to the county facility. Dillon found the dogs and took them the next day. According to a report from the Animal Control Unit, the dogs had no “previous incidents” of being bitten by a human or animal. About two weeks later, Dillon was served with orders saying his dogs were ‘vicious’ because they had ‘killed or seriously injured a person or domestic animal’ and should be put down. He could appeal but in the meantime, Lucy and Odin had to stay in the pound.
“It’s like losing your kids,” said Dillon, 45, who works as a construction foreman. “I took care of them and always played with them. Then one day they left.
Determined to save the dogs’ lives, Lowman and Dillon launched an onslaught of calls to drop the “vicious” label. The case was back and forth in hearings, commissions and courts, but ultimately “vicious” was upheld.
“Odin and Lucy were not provoked. Odin and Lucy were not reacting to pain or injury. They were not protecting or defending anyone. … They were not defending themselves, their litter, or another animal,” a said the appeal board in its July 2021 decision. “We have no confidence that Odin and Lucy can be safely maintained without threatening other animals and therefore designate Odin and Lucy as vicious. Once an animal is determined to be “vicious”, it must be destroyed. … It is with deep regret that Odin and Lucy suffer this fate.
Odin and Lucy’s case – and their lives – hinged on a 2017 incident and a law that was about to face a challenge.
Local laws regarding dog euthanasia are often passed after unfortunate incidents. In Anne Arundel, a dog named Lilo was killed in 2017 by another dog who was later returned to its owner. In response, the county passed “Lilo’s Law,” which classified animals that kill or cause serious injury to another pet or human as “vicious”—a label requiring the animal to be euthanized.
However, Lucy and Odin would not be euthanized until their owners exhausted all their avenues of recourse, so they started over, this time hiring two lawyers – Kimbrell and her boss C. Edward Middlebrooks, who was previously a senator from Maryland and chairman of the county council.
In court documents, lawyers argued that Stinchcomb, the only eyewitness to the incident, had falsely accused the dogs and that there was a lack of evidence to prove that Lucy and Odin were the perpetrators. Additionally, they said, there had been four dead cats found and sightings of coyotes in the neighborhood since Odin and Lucy had been put “behind bars.”
“Obviously there’s a serial killer cat in the neighborhood, but it can’t be Odin or Lucy,” they claimed in court filings.
The dogs, they argued, did not kill Big Boy but stumbled upon the cat after he was already dead and began to play with him as if he were a toy, and that did Stinchcomb see.
The case dragged on until mid-February, when one of the attorneys received an email from the county attorney’s office about reaching a settlement.
Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman said he heard about the case on social media and asked county prosecutors if it could be resolved.
“I was shocked that these two dogs were on death row,” Pittman said. “It should never have gone this far.”
Pittman said he plans to ask that the county’s rules on determining vicious pets be reviewed to ensure there is “more room for common sense and judgment.”
County prosecutors declined to discuss Odin and Lucy’s case.
On February 18, Odin and Lucy’s lives were spared and they were released, as Lowman and Dillon picked them up and took them home. Dillon cried when he saw the dogs.
However, the family had to meet certain conditions for his release.
They would be labeled “dangerous” instead of “vicious” because their owners violated the county’s loose animal code. Lowman also had to install a six-foot-tall fence with wiring at the bottom and an “anti-climb mattress topper” to ensure they didn’t dig or climb their way out of their yard.
On a recent afternoon, Lowman played with her dogs in her fenced yard and swelled with joy even as she recalled the costly year-long battle to get them back: “It was well worth fight for them. I would do it again.