A pair of dogs in Millersville who are accused of killing a neighbor’s cat were saved from a grim fate Monday after a judge granted an appeal from the dogs’ owners, temporarily taking euthanization off the table.
The dogs, named Lucy and Odin, have been detained at Anne Arundel County Animal Care and Control since Jan. 30, 2021, when the alleged attack occurred. The only eyewitness, the cat’s owner Daniel Stinchcomb, left town briefly after the incident and has not appeared in any court proceedings related to the case.
Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Pamela Alban said she found the evidence lacking in the case. In Stinchcomb’s initial statement about the attack to the responding animal control officer, he said he heard growling and came outside to find the three animals entangled. He alleged the attack was unprovoked against his cat Big Boy, but Alban said that could not be proved without eyewitness testimony of the start of the attack. Without that kind of evidence, the dogs should not be deemed “vicious,” she said.
“What [the county’s legal team] had was that Mr. Stinchcomb heard growling, heard some sort of commotion, went out and already saw the dogs engaged in an attack on this cat. It did not have evidence of what led up to that attack. It did not have any evidence of how it got started, and it is this court’s opinion that you need to flesh out that evidence,” Alban said.
Alban remanded the case back to the Board of Appeals to give the county a chance to provide more conclusive evidence against the dogs, who will remain impounded at animal control as the case continues.
Nola Lowman, who owns the dogs with her son William Dillon, said she was disappointed she couldn’t take the dogs home yet but was happy with the judge’s ruling.
“It wasn’t the result we wanted. We hoped we could bring them home today. I had everything set up for them to come home today. But it’s a step forward,” Lowman said Monday evening. “It’s just so hard. They’re such good pets; they’re like my children.”
A nearly full courtroom of animal lovers and interested spectators came to watch the proceedings Monday afternoon. Viewers included neighbors of Lowman and Dillon, animal rights advocates and organizers from local animal rescues.
Attorney Ed Middlebrooks, who is a former Maryland senator and Anne Arundel County Council member, and his co-counsel Stephanie Kimbrell represented Dillon and argued there was too little evidence to sentence the dogs to death. Attorney Elana Robison, who represented Anne Arundel County, argued that one eyewitness testimony was enough, as his statement lined up with the evidence. As an example, she cited bite marks found on Big Boy’s neck and torso after Stinchcomb stated he saw Odin’s mouth around the cat’s torso and Lucy’s mouth around his neck and head.
Neighbors and animal rights advocates present at the hearing said they were relieved but still fearful of what this means for the future of the way animals are treated in the county.
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“I think that the judge was fair in what she was saying,” Judylynn Scott, a neighbor of Lowman and Dillon, said after the decision, adding that she believes Lowman and Dillon are far more trustworthy than Stinchcomb. Scott said she has been feeding the other cats Stinchcomb abandoned when he left town last year.
“They took his word over a woman who still works and pays rent and has a house full of animals. How can you take his word?” Scott said. “He lied, and they bought it.”
The Capital’s efforts to reach Stinchcomb and Dillon were not successful Monday.
Ann Katcef, who previously served on the county Animal Matters Commission and worked for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, was similarly disgusted the case had gone this far.
“I am surprised these animals have survived this and haven’t gone nuts. This is animal abuse from animal control,” Katcef said. “There is something radically wrong with the way these dogs are being treated.”
The case has gained national notoriety in recent weeks, with “Clueless” star Alicia Silverstone tweeting and posting on Facebook about it, and Netflix producer Glen Zipper telling the Daily Beast he is contemplating creating a documentary on it.
“I hope more and more people will fight for the animals,” Scott said.