Cynthia Roodman of Gardiner is working with Rep. Matt Pouliot, R-Augusta, to submit a bill in the next legislative session to impose penalties against dog owners whose animals attack people and who leave the scene of the attack without helping the victim. Roodman was attacked by two dogs in July. She and Pouliot spoke Friday at the State House. ANDY MOLLOY/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — A Gardiner woman who was attacked by two dogs and then watched their owner walk away wants what happened to her to be a crime under state law.

Cynthia Roodman stood by Rep. Matt Pouliot, R-Augusta, at a State House news conference Friday as he announced plans to introduce a bill to make it a felony for a dog owner to leave the scene if their pet attacks someone.

“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 Gardiner when a dog attacked her and a second one joined in after she fell to the ground with the dogs’ owner, who was trying to restrain the initial attacker.

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

The owner didn’t answer, 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 owner should have faced a more severe penalty after leaving her lying in the parking lot.

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

Griatzky was ordered to pay restitution, but Roodman said she said she’s not sure she’ll get anything.

Pouliot said the bill would make this a class C felony, punishable by jail time and stiffer financial penalties, the same 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 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 attacks 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 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 he could not comment on the proposal because he hasn’t seen it.

The 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. 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 situation allowing dogs to be off their leash.

A number of city residents have spoken at public hearings 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 called 911, which brought both police and an ambulance to the Arcade lot. A witness also wrote down the license plate number of the vehicle that Griatzky left in.

Even with the higher level of attention, Toman said, he has not seen an uptick in calls 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.”

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