Six weeks after Cynthia Roodman said she was charged by two dogs in the Arcade parking lot in Gardiner, she’s left wondering about the laws that govern keeping canines in Maine.

“I don’t want another sympathy card,” Roodman said earlier this week in an interview.

Roodman, who is a dog owner, wants people to understand what can happen when a dog that’s not on a leash attacks someone.

It’s more than the stitches and staples and the hospital bills; it’s also the lasting impact of a traumatic incident.

“These animals, they’re an extension of us. I want consequences,” she said. “I want to work with lawmakers to make sure you can’t leave the scene and there’s consequences for the dogs.”

Roodman says it should be a crime to walk away from a dog attack and that dog attacks should also draw stiffer penalties.

Gardiner, like other communities, requires dogs to be on leashes. State law also requires all dogs to be on leashes, unless they are hunting.

But in the wake of Roodman’s attack and complaints by other residents, Gardiner elected officials are considering whether they need to reexamine what the city requires of its dog owners.

“There has been constant discussion about dogs at the waterfront,” Gardiner Mayor Thom Harnett said. “It’s not dog owners versus non-owners. Dog owners are asking us to do something.”

Residents say this year the number of dogs running loose, particularly at the Waterfront Park, has increased, and that’s driving concerns about their safety and the safety of their dogs.

But when the topic came up earlier this month at a Gardiner City Council meeting, Police Chief James Toman said his department is not getting calls. “We can put up signs and things like that, but we still need the calls to take the appropriate action,” Toman said.

He noted that the hours for the city’s animal control officer had been cut from 40 hours a week to 25 hours a week.

“What happened to Cynthia drove up the level of concern,” Harnett said. “It was horrifying.

From her recollections and statements from witnesses, Roodman said the attack happened in a matter of moments.

At 4:43 p.m., on Monday, July 16, Roodman had just gone down the tunnel from Water Street in Gardiner to the Arcade parking lot that sits on the bank of Cobbossee Stream.

She was talking on her cellphone to her travel agent when she noticed a group of about six people standing not far away. Two of them were facing away from her. With them was a dog, a black boxer mix, that was looking in her direction.

Roodman said she saw the dog lower its head and barrel straight at her.

She put up her right arm to protect her face, and it bit her arm.

A man and a woman from the group standing in the parking lot started running toward her and tried to grab the dog, which had bit her on the upper part of her left arm.

To keep the dog away from her, she grabbed the man by the shirt to put him between them. They spun three times before falling to the ground.

Roodman said that’s when witnesses told her a brown dog also went after her.

She credits the advice of her husband, Francois Roodman, Augusta’s former animal control officer, for her instinct to roll to try to avoid the attack of the second dog, but it also bit her, ripping her ear and puncturing the skin on her hip. In rolling, she said she gave herself a black eye and a slight concussion.

In minutes it was over; the dogs were contained, and the people who had been standing in the parking lot left.

“I was screaming at them, ‘Please don’t leave me! Call 911! Please don’t leave me!'” she said.

She begged them to tell her whether the dogs had had their rabies shots.

At the time, she couldn’t feel her ear, and she worried she has lost it and the dog still had it. The attack drew the attention of people who live and work on Water Street, who helped her slow the bleeding and called for an ambulance. One of them noted the license plate of the vehicle with the dogs in it, and Gardiner Police used that information to find the dogs.

According to the complaint on file at the Capital Judicial Center, Steven Griatzky, 40, of Bowdoinham, was charged with two counts of keeping a dangerous dog in connection with the attack.

Repeated attempts to reach Griatzky by phone were unsuccessful.

Kennebec County Deputy District Attorney Paul Kavanaugh said Friday that Graitzky failed to appear in court this week.

“The charge was a civil violation,” Kavanaugh said. By default, he was found liable on the charges, and a hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 20 to determine the fate of the dogs and determine whether he would have to pay any restitution.

The dogs are currently being held in quarantine at the Kennebec Valley Humane Society in Augusta.

To date, Roodman said the dog bites have cost her about $6,000, which includes the ambulance trip to MaineGeneral Medical Center, treatment of her wounds, and two rounds of rabies shots at the site of each bite. She had nine staples in her head, 16 stitches in her ear and seven stitches in her arm. The muscle in her left arm remains deformed.

Her insurance has paid about two-thirds of the cost, but she has spent more than $1,000 so far, and she’s not certain whether other bills will come. As a self-employed hair stylist, she also lost about $900 in income for the day and a half of work she missed after the attack.

While the scars are healing, she said she still struggles with trauma and the fear of encountering dogs off leash.

“The mental health is the hardest part,” she said. “I look fine, but I woke up this morning crying. It’s the human factor. They left me there. I thought I was going to die.”

In the shorter term, the Gardiner City Council will take up the matter again at its Sept. 19 meeting, when city staff is expected to bring recommendations forward for city elected officials to consider.

“I want it to be a crime to leave someone who your dogs attacked,” Roodman said. “And I think there should be stiffer consequences for people whose dogs attack other dogs or humans.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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