NEWARK, New Jersey (WABC) -- Newark dog owners are calling it a senseless act of animal cruelty: A letter carrier was caught on their surveillance camera pepper-spraying two defenseless dogs who were locked behind a seven-foot iron gate.
After fronting thousands in vet bills to treat their dogs, a dog owner said she needed Nina Pineda and 7 On Your Side to help make her whole.
Michelle Correia said the incident caused her dogs, Beethoven and Gordo, to vomit.
"That's 100 percent animal cruelty," Correia said.
Her fiancée, Bryan Cruz, said he walked into a cloud of the fumes seconds later.
"I saw something spraying down and felt something in my eyes burning," Cruz said.
Cruz said when he asked him why he did it, the letter carrier said it was for his safety.
Video of the incident shows the letter carrier casually holding his hand over the railing as he walked up a staircase to the mailboxes and spray the dogs, who were behind a locked gate.
"I can understand if I left the gate open and they were up here and biting legs, but they were behind a closed gate, there was no threat whatsoever to him," Correia said.
After being sprayed the couple said the Shih Tzu-Maltese mixes struggled to breathe, threw up and they rushed them to the animal hospital.
Correia said one of the dog's eyes was completely swollen.
Between the emergency visit, poison control call, medicine, and antibiotics, the veterinary bill ballooned to almost $1,800.
It was an expense the about-to-be-married couple couldn't afford and they said their pleas to the post office for reimbursement went nowhere.
"They didn't get back, didn't tell me what was going on or what was being conducted...it was nothing," Correia said. "It wasn't fair, why do I have to pay $2,000 in vet bills, not only that, but have my animals hurt?"
Correia said she went to the post office to report the incident and complain about the carrier.
She said the next day a postal inspector called her to see a copy of the video and get the vet bills, but that's the last she said she heard from anyone until 7 On Your Side got involved.
The USPS couldn't tell 7 On Your Side whether he was still employed but fast-tracked Correia's claim and reimbursed her the entire vet bill.
Newark police told 7 On Your Side the letter carrier had been charged with cruelty to animals.
The case is scheduled for municipal court next week.
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