Neighbors of a Rockville woman who was mauled Saturday by three large dogs said yesterday they are horrified that the animals have been returned to their owners pending an investigation.

The Rottweilers, large short-haired dogs that resemble Dobermans, escaped from their owners' yard and attacked Arlynn Joffe and her 3-year-old son as they were walking by on Green Pasture Drive.

Rockville police responded to the incident and took the animals to the Montgomery Humane Society. The dogs' owners, Paul Levin and Hagit Gedalya, were permitted to take them home after demonstrating the dogs recently had been vaccinated for rabies, city spokesman Donald H. Vandrey said yesterday.

Last night, neighborhood association president Norman Oremland led a meeting of about 40 members of the association and said the group decided to try to have the dogs "permanently removed from the neighborhood." He said he and other members of the association would attend a special hearing this week by the city's Animal Control Board regarding the fate of the dogs.

The dogs have been placed on a 10-day quarantine, which means the owners cannot allow them to leave their home and yard, while the board investigates the attack, Vandrey said. The owners also were required to purchase city licenses for the dogs, which they had not done, he said.

"There's no way we cannot let the owners have the dogs back," Vandrey said. "The Animal Control Board can {only} order a dog removed {from the city} after a public hearing."

Levin and Gedalya said they would have no comment on the attack, but Mark Joffe, husband and father of the victims, said they have apologized to him.

Arlynn Joffe, who suffered nine major bites and required 150 stitches, was admitted to Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, where she was in good condition, according to the nursing supervisor. Brett Joffe suffered minor bites on his legs, which were treated by a doctor, Mark Joffe said.

"Last night, {Arlynn Joffe} couldn't sleep because she was constantly reliving the feel of these dogs' teeth in her flesh," Mark Joffe said.

The dogs, named Caesar, Bear and Lear, apparently escaped the yard because a gate had been left open, witnesses said.

The Joffes "were encircled by these dogs . . . . She was holding her son about waist level and they were grabbing at her, biting her," said neighbor Patricia Hoff, who saw the attack.

Another neighbor rushed over and grabbed the child and then tried to lead the mother and son into his home, even as the dogs continued to bite Arlynn Joffe.

Steven Schiff, a neighbor who is a doctor and who examined Arlynn Joffe before the ambulance arrived, said her legs were bitten repeatedly and her forearm was torn open by the dogs. "Apparently the dogs biting her legs were holding her still while the other tried to kill her in a coordinated hunting attack," Schiff said.

Since moving into the neighborhood in February, Levin and Gedalya usually keep their dogs locked in the garage when they are not home, neighbors said.

However, residents in the quiet neighborhood said the dogs have escaped from the fenced yard and frightened them on several occasions.

Ellen Lobel said she was captive in her own home for an hour because the dogs were in her yard and she was afraid to confront them. "They wouldn't leave, and we couldn't get out," Lobel said.

The dogs also dug under the fence on one occasion and bounded into Bob Stone's yard. "I can't leave my 3-year-old out back anymore in case they" get out, he said.

Rockville laws require dogs to be under the control of their owners when out in public. State laws also provide for criminal penalties in cases of vicious dogs, Vandrey said.

Staff writer Stephen Buckley contributed to this report.