AUGUSTA — A Gardiner woman who was attacked by two dogs in mid-July is moving ahead with her goal of making what happened to her a crime.

Cynthia Roodman stood by Rep. Matt Pouliot, R-Augusta, on Friday as he announced at a news conference at the Welcome Center at the Maine State House he plans to bring legislation that makes it a felony for a dog owner or caretaker to leave the scene of an attack by their dangerous dog.

“I am here today because I want to be a voice. I want to change laws,” Roodman said.

Three months ago, she was walking to her car in the Arcade parking lot behind Water Street in Gardiner when a dog attacked her and a second dog joined the first one, once she had fallen to the ground with the owner of the dogs, who was trying to restrain the initial attacker.

Roodman said she was screaming for help and asking whether one of the dogs had her ear — which she feared had been bitten off — and whether they’d had rabies shots.

She didn’t get any answers as the owner took his dogs and left the parking lot.

Steven Griatzky, the man who owned the dogs — a boxer and a boxer mix — failed to appear at two hearings in Augusta District Court.

“There is no law that protected me from him leaving,” she said. “He was charged civilly, and he got a minimum fine of $250 per dog.”

At the second hearing, the dogs, which had been in quarantine at the Kennebec Valley Humane Society, were ordered euthanized.

Roodman said the court order was also a penalty, but she thinks there ought to be a greater consequence than paying a fine after leaving her lying in parking lot.

To date, Roodman’s insurance company has paid out about $4,000 for her medical care; she said her share is $1,200.

While Griatzky was ordered to pay restitution, she said she’s not sure whether she will get anything.

Pouliot said the proposal is to establish this as a class C felony, punishable by jail time and stiffer financial penalties, the same level as leaving the scene of an accident.

“For me, it’s negligence when you are in a situation where your dog attacks someone to simply walk away and leave that person to fend for themselves,” he said. “What we’re saying is that this ought to be a crime if people do this, and this individual would be held to a much higher standard than a simple $250 fine and restitution.”

During the last legislative session, state lawmakers approved L.D. 858, “An Act to Strengthen the Law Regarding Dangerous Dogs.” As of Aug. 1, the law established definitions for nuisance and dangerous dogs, increased the fine and expanded the penalties for owning such a dog, and for not following a court order related to that dog.

Pouliot said with that law as a baseline, the owner would be held to the higher standard if a dangerous dog attacked someone.

In addition to physical wounds that include bites on both arms, a ripped ear, a bite on her hip and a cut on her head, all of which resulted in 23 stitches, 9 staples and rabies shots, Roodman said she continues to fear dogs and isn’t comfortable walking outside.

“When I am out in public, I carry a can of Mace and a high-powered BB gun,” she said.

Pouliot, a Republican who is running for the Senate District 15 seat being vacated by Sen. Roger Katz, said the proposal is being submitted to the Office of the Revisor for a title. Once the bill is drafted, he said, sponsors can be sought.

Gardiner police Chief James Toman said Friday that because he hasn’t seen the text of the proposal, he could not comment on it.

Th attack on Roodman was part of the reason that the Gardiner City Council voted this week to impose a citywide leash law for dogs. Dogs may be off-leash on the property of their owner or the property of someone who has given permission for the dog to be off-leash. The council also directed that a committee be formed to recommend changes to the ordinance for more rural parts of Gardiner where hunting takes place. Under state law, hunting is the only occasion for which dogs are allowed off their leash.

A number of city residents have spoken at public hearings and during public comment about their experiences with dogs that are allowed to run free, particularly at the city’s Waterfront Park and in the Arcade parking lot, where Roodman was attacked.

“We do need to be notified,” Toman said. “We need to be called. We need our citizens to be our eyes and ears. They are force multipliers. See something, say something.”

In the case of the Roodman attack, he said, witnesses were able to call 911, which brought both police and an ambulance to the Arcade lot. A witness also was able to write down the license plate number of the vehicle that the dog owner left in, which helped police find the both the owner and the dogs.

Even with the higher level of attention, Toman said he has not seen an uptick in calls to his department about dogs.

“More education is really paramount,” he said. “We need to help people understand their duties and responsibilities when it comes to current laws or new laws. Once an incident occurs, what we need is citizens willing to help out and do the right thing.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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