NEW SPRINGVILLE — A woman was arrested and spent three days in jail after throwing ammonia at her neighbors' dog, leaving it with ulcers in both eyes and possibly permanently blinding the animal, prosecutors said.
Irene Helale, 69, of Vassar Street, was so sick of her neighbors' 5-year-old English bulldog, Rocky, jumping on her fence and barking when she and her husband passed by that she decided to teach the dog a lesson, prosecutors said.
Helale walked into her backyard at 3:15 p.m. Sunday, spotted Rocky swimming in his backyard pool, and banged together pots and pans to lure the dog to her fence, prosecutors said. When he was close enough, she splashed the dog's face with ammonia, getting it into both of his eyes, prosecutors and Rocky's owners said.
"I can't imagine why somebody would do this," Rocky's owner, Frank Latino, said. "He's a loving dog. I'm still beside myself, I just can't believe it."
Rocky was rushed to the ASPCA's Upper East Side office, where he was diagnosed by Dr. Robert Reisman with ulcers in both of his eyes, according to prosecutors. He could suffer permanent loss of his sight, and the best-case scenario is that he will get back about 70 percent of his vision when the ulcers clear, prosecutors and his owners said.
Helale was arrested at her home on Sunday and held until Tuesday, when she was arraigned in Staten Island Criminal Court on charges of aggravated cruelty to animals and torturing and injuring animals, according to the district attorney's office.
It was not immediately clear why her arraignment took more than the customary 24 hours to process.
Helale told DNAinfo New York that she never meant to hurt Rocky, adding that she only poured a little ammonia on the ground near her fence when the dog wasn't around in a bid to stop Rocky from jumping on it, barking and scaring her and her husband, Sam Helale, 76.
"I'm not a vicious person," said Helale, who was released without bail after her arraignment Tuesday. "I just wanted to put it on my patio to stop it from jumping on our fence. I would never spray an animal with anything."
She said, until the incident, she had a great relationship with the Latino family, but just wanted the dog to stop barking and scaring her and her husband, who both have heart conditions.
"They're wonderful people," Sam Helale said. "They're wonderful neighbors."
Sam Helale said the dog has been scaring him for years, but said he never called the police to complain about the barking.
However, Latino said that the Helales have repeatedly antagonized Rocky, which is why he jumps on the fence and barks at them.
"They're always provoking the dog," he said. "Of course he's going to pick back at them."
Irene Helale is due back in court on Sept. 17.