The Rockville Animal Control Board refused yesterday to reopen a hearing on the Sept. 15 mauling of a woman by three rottweilers, a decision that virtually assures the protracted controversy will be settled in court.

City officials and Arlynn Joffe, whose injuries from the attack required 150 stitches, filed petitions last month asking the board for a rehearing on its Oct. 15 order. That order, which followed a 7 1/2-hour hearing, declared the animals dangerous, banned them from the city and required that they be separated in new homes as far away as Israel.

Rockville officials, the Joffes and their neighborhood association want the dogs destroyed.

The city has custody of the dogs, which have been placed in separate, undisclosed kennels in the county. The city's tab for boarding the dogs has exceeded $2,600 so far, a city official said.

In reaffirming its original decision, the board yesterday said it "finds no new information has been presented" to warrant reopening the case.

The board also rejected requests from the city and Joffe that the dogs be destroyed. "Nothing that has been alleged, even if proved, changes the board's collective mind on that issue," the board said.

Mayor Douglas Duncan called the board's decision an outrage.

"It's inconceivable that the board would not allow the Joffes to present new evidence" about the dogs' behavior, Duncan said.

Steven Silverman, the attorney for the dogs' owner, Hagit Levin, said the board's decision "vindicated the reputation" of his client. "Our hope now is that the city will realize there isn't a legal basis for them to challenge the board's order and allow the original agreement to be followed."

Arlynn Joffe's husband, Mark, said the decision "affirms what we think is a basic wrong. If the dogs are too dangerous for one place, why should they be allowed elsewhere?"

The controversy is expected to shift to the courtroom. "Obviously this is a very emotional issue," said Norman Oremland, president of the North Farm Citizens Association, which also asked for a rehearing. "You can bet we'll go to court."

On Nov. 7, Circuit Court Judge L. Leonard Ruben ruled that any orders of the board must be stayed for a 30-day appeal period.

The city, which had signed a settlement agreement with Levin, changed its mind about sparing the lives of the dogs after Levin allegedly removed the animals without permission Oct. 21 from a kennel where they had been placed. After an overnight search, the dogs -- Bear, Lear and Caesar -- were recaptured. Earlier this month, Ruben ordered the dogs tattooed for identification purposes.

On Oct. 26, the Joffes filed a $4.5 million negligence suit against Levin and her husband, Paul. Arlynn Joffe was attacked by the dogs while walking with her 3-year-old son.