Authorities credit an alert police officer with saving the life of the dog, named Roxy. He spotted the battered pooch at Miller Street and Highway 36 in Highlands Friday night, and stopped the driver.
Roxy, a 4-and-a-half pound mix, is being treated in a Red Bank animal hospital after being dragged behind the car. The pads on her tiny paws are now gone, and she has scrapes and scratches on her body.
"If it wasn't for that officer the dog would be dead by now," said Chief Buddy Victor Amato of the Monmouth County SPCA.
But the dog's owner, Keith Guastamacchia, 49, insisted on Tuesday that he loves his dog like a child.
"I'm a lovely person. I would never hurt a fly," he said.
Late Friday night, Guastamacchia said he, his girlfriend and her five children were evicted. His adorable dog, Roxy, had to go to the bathroom. So Guastamacchia pulled over and threw the leash handle thru the back window so he could talk on his cell phone. He then got back into the car and drove off.
Guastamacchia, of Middletown Township, said he was distracted and completely forgot she was still tethered. He said Tuesday that she was dragged up a hill before they were stopped.
"I panicked. I said 'Oh my God!' I started screaming, crying. It was horrible. A horrific tragedy for my dog and myself," he said.
Roxy's prognosis for recovery is excellent, said Amato.
"For a 4-and-a-half-pound dog, it's remarkable how good it's doing," he said
Guastamacchia was arrested, charged with animal cruelty and released with a summons. He has a court date at the end of the month, and now faces a big medical bill and fine on top of his housing crisis -- plus he's received a lot of hate mail. But the SPCA does not believe it was intentional and Roxy will be returned after she heals.
"He was destroyed, he felt stupid. Very upset, very concerned about the dog, and remorseful," said Amato.
He described the owner's actions as negligent, but not intentional, and expects Roxy to be returned to Guastamacchia after she heals.