Rockville city officials, frustrated in their efforts to deal with three Rottweilers who mauled a woman last month, said yesterday that they now want the dogs destroyed.

City officials asked the city's Animal Control Board to reconsider its decision to separate the dogs permanently and banish them from Rockville and instead to order that the dogs be killed. In the meantime, city officials also want to brand the dogs for identification and to bar their owner from visiting them.

The city's move came two days after the dogs' owner, Hagit Levin, removed the animals without permission from a kennel where they had been held while awaiting adoption. She said she had planned to send one dog to Israel.

"My wife says it's better than a soap opera," said Mayor Douglas Duncan. "It's not as bad as the ferret case in Virginia, but it has been very difficult." He was referring to a Prince William County woman who was jailed for five days two years ago after refusing to divulge the whereabouts of a ferret feared to be rabid.

The dogs -- the 5-year-old mother, Lear, and her 2-year-old male puppies, Bear and Caesar -- are being held in an undisclosed kennel, city officials said. Rockville police recovered them about 5 a.m. yesterday after tracking the animals to private homes in Bethesda and Mount Airy, Duncan said. He said Levin had tried unsuccessfully to place the dogs with friends in Delaware.

Duncan said the city wants the original decision by the Animal Control Board overturned because of Levin's erratic behavior.

"She is completely untrustworthy," Duncan said of Levin. "She will take any steps to keep the dogs together. The only way they will not be reunited as a pack is to destroy them."

Levin declined to comment yesterday, referring calls to her attorney, Sanford Z. Berman. "I'm not in a state of mind to speak," she said. Berman did not return several calls yesterday.

Rockville officials have asked county prosecutors to investigate bringing criminal charges against Levin for removing the dogs from the kennel. Violators of Maryland's "dangerous dog" law can be fined up to $2,500, although one legal observer said criminal action is "highly unlikely."

But in another bizarre twist, Levin was charged Monday night by Rockville police with hindering a police officer during the arrest of her brother, Shay Gdaliya, 22, outside her home in the North Farm subdivision.

Police said Gdaliya was arrested while leaving Levin's house in a 1979 red Volvo that had stolen license tags. Gdaliya was charged with theft, and both he and Levin were released on their own recognizance, police said.

The recent developments have incensed Levin's neighbors. "This woman's behavior has been outrageous before," said community leader Norman Oremland, "but now it has gone too far. She has overstepped the bounds of good conduct."

The incident started Sept. 15 when Arlynn Joffe, 39, was seriously bitten by the Rottweilers while walking with her 5-year-old son. Three days later, city police seized the dogs from a kennel where Hagit Levin and her husband, Paul, had hidden the animals.

The city's Animal Control Board held two public hearings where witnesses retold gruesome tales of the attack and Hagit Levin pleaded for her dogs, one of whom was the maid of honor in her wedding. At the Oct. 2 hearing, the board accepted an agreement between the city and the Levins permanently banning and separating the dogs.

One week later, the agreement fell apart. The Joffe family petitioned the board to reopen the hearing and order the dogs destroyed. Levin then removed the dogs from a kennel.