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DA: Woman who left dog to die pleads guilty to animal abuse

Tamara Copeland, 57, of Hempstead, pleaded guilty on

Tamara Copeland, 57, of Hempstead, pleaded guilty on Monday, May 22, 2017, to an animal abuse charge and is due back for sentencing on July 24, according to the Nassau County district attorney's office. Credit: NCDA

A Hempstead woman who left a dog to die on the sidewalk has pleaded guilty to an animal abuse charge and is expected to be sentenced to 6 months in jail, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Tamara Copeland, 57, of Hempstead, also was barred from owning an animal for the next 10 years after pleading guilty Monday before District Court Judge Norman St. George to one count of abandonment of animals. She is due back for sentencing on July 24.

“Crimes against defenseless animals are heartbreaking, and we take these cases very seriously because we know that those who abuse or neglect animals often harm people, too,” Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a news release.

Singas said that at about 9 a.m. on Oct. 13, 2015, an employee of a veterinary clinic on Main Street in Hempstead found a poodle-mix dog with open wounds and bloody bandages lying on a small bed right outside the entryway. The clinic contacted Town of Hempstead Animal Control, which took the dog to a shelter where it was examined and treated, and the case was referred to the district attorney’s office by animal control.

Surveillance videos from that morning, including one video of two women walking on Main Street, one pushing a cart, were obtained by Singas’ office. According to the release, the woman pushing the cart, Copeland, briefly leaves the frame and returns without the cart and holding what appears to be a wrapped package. Prosecutors said Copeland drops the package in front of the animal clinic and then hastily walks away and out of the screen.

Singas said the video was distributed to the media and Copeland was identified through a tip and arrested by her investigators less than 24 hours after the video’s release.

The dog, named Nino, had an implanted identification chip that helped determined it was owned by a Uniondale woman and that it went missing from her yard more than three years ago, Singas said. She added the owner did not match the description of the people depicted in the video and was never the subject of an investigation. The dog was given to the owner as a birthday present by her daughter in April 2000.

Singas said that when found, Nino was suffering from broken ribs, bacterial infections, skin lesions, trauma and other injuries of unknown origin. After he received stabilizing medical care, Nino was transferred to a private veterinary facility.

Nino recuperated and but has since died, Singas said.

In April 2015, Singas, at the time acting district attorney, made a “first-of-its-kind” commitment to fully fund the care and rehabilitation of victims of animal cruelty using criminal asset forfeiture funds, the release said.

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