The victim of a vicious dog attack is now becoming an advocate for dangerous dog law reform in Maine.
Last summer, Cynthia Roodman was walking through a parking lot in Gardiner when she noticed a group of six adults and two dogs. Both boxers looked at her and lunged. They began biting her ear, head, arms and hip. She remembers thinking she was about to die.
"I'm on the ground bleeding, my ear is ripped apart, my head is ripped apart," she said.
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The dogs' owner ran over to them and separated the boxers, but then fled the scene. The adults in the group left, too. Roodman was left on the ground alone, bleeding and scared.
"I'm screaming, 'Please, don't leave me. I just need to know if your dog has rabies. Please don't leave. Please call an ambulance and help me,'" Roodman recalled.
Witnesses to the attack came running toward her and called 911. One person was able to get the dog owner's license plate as the vehicle left the parking lot.
Police tracked down 40-year-old Steven Graitzky of Bowdoinham and seized the dogs. Both boxers have been euthanized. Graitzky had to pay a $500 fine for the dangerous dogs, but faced no criminal charges. Under state law, he did nothing illegal.
"How is that not a crime?" asked State Rep. Matt Pouliot (R-Augusta). "To just simply walk away, and leave a person to fend for themselves, is just ludicrous."
Rep. Pouiliot announced Friday plans to submit a bill in the next legislative to criminalize leaving the scene of a dog attack. It would make it a class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.
Pouliot said it was a strong punishment, but an appropriate one.
"We should be able to walk our public streets without fear of being attacked by a vicious dog," he said. "Pet ownership comes with responsibility."
Roodman hopes state lawmakers support the legislation, and wants to see more reforms. As an animal lover and owner of two dogs herself, Roodman hopes her story encourages dog owners to keep better control of the pets in public places.
"If you have a dangerous dog, leave it at home," she said.
After stitches and staples to her head, ear and arms, it's a slow physical recovery. She can still feel the bite mark in one of her shoulders. She continues to get injections where the dogs tore a muscle. Her ear is scarred, and she may get laser surgery to repair it. Sometimes, it hurts to hug.
But the worst part may be the mental side effects.
"I am grieving the fact that I don't like dogs anymore," she said. "I'm terrified of them. I don't like being in public places."
She said she now carries a can of mace with her everywhere she goes.
"I feel like I have lost a freedom because one person decided not to have their dogs on leashes," Roodman said.