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Tips from Public Lead to Arrest of Woman Seen on Video Abandoning Dog

Acting Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas is seeking the public’s help in identifying two persons of interest or any other information in connection to an animal cruelty case.

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Update - October 15, 2015 - Acting Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced that less than 24 hours after asking for the public’s help in identifying two persons of interest or any other information in connection to an animal cruelty case, one of the persons has been identified and arrested with the help of witness tips.

Tamara Copeland, 56, of Hempstead, was arrested by DA investigators this afternoon and was arraigned in Nassau County District Court on charges of misdemeanor animal neglect and animal abandonment.  Judge Darlene Harris set bail at $5,000 bond or $2,500 cash.  Copeland is due back in court on Oct. 19.

Copeland is seen in surveillance video – released to the public by the DA’s Office yesterday – leaving a poodle-mix dog with open wounds and bloody bandages outside the entryway of a veterinary clinic at 28 Main Street in Hempstead.   She is charged for neglecting to care for, and then abandoning, the dog.  An investigation is ongoing into the other woman in the video, how Copeland acquired the dog, and who inflicted the injuries found on the dog, among other issues.

“Thanks to tips from the public, in less than 24 hours, DA Investigators from our Animal Crimes Unit were able locate and arrest the woman who we believe neglected this defenseless animal,” Acting DA Singas said. “Our investigation is ongoing, and anyone with additional information about Niño, or any other case of animal abuse or neglect in Nassau County, is encouraged to call our tip line at 516-571-7755.”

The original press release is below.

Mineola, NY - October 14, 2015 - Acting Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas is seeking the public’s help in identifying two persons of interest or any other information in connection to an animal cruelty case.

At approximately 9 a.m. on Tuesday October 13, an employee of a veterinary clinic on Main Street in Hempstead found a poodle-mix dog with open wounds and bloody bandages laying on a small bed right outside the entryway. The clinic contacted Town of Hempstead Animal Control, which responded and took the dog to a shelter where it was examined and treated. The case was immediately referred to the NCDA by animal control.

The NCDA secured a video, from approximately 8 a.m. yesterday morning, of two women walking on Main Street, one pushing a cart. The woman pushing the cart briefly leaves the frame and returns without the cart and holding what appears to be a wrapped package. The person drops the package in front of the animal clinic and then hastily walks away and out of the screen.

The dog had an implanted identification chip and it was determined that the dog was owned by a woman who said the dog’s name was Niño and went missing from her property approximately two years ago. The owner did not match the description of the person depicted in the video and is not the subject of an investigation.

The dog was given to the owner as a birthday present by her daughter in April 2000. It went missing two years ago from the owner’s yard. When found yesterday, Niño was suffering from bacterial infections, skin lesions, trauma and other injuries of unknown origin. After he received stabilizing medical care, the dog was transferred to a private veterinary facility where he will be reunited with his owner.

The NCDA’s Animal Crimes Unit is seeking assistance from the public in locating the person(s) responsible for Nino’s condition and abandonment. The 24-hour tip line is 516-571-7755, option 8. Calls may be anonymous.

“This beloved dog went missing from his owner and was found discarded and in horrifying condition on a Hempstead street,” Acting DA Singas said. “Those who harm innocent animals, often hurt people, and we’re seeking the public’s help to find the criminal who stole and abused this innocent animal. While I am heartened that this dog will be returned to a loving home, this case marks yet another example of why we need to strengthen animal cruelty laws in New York State. I thank the Town of Hempstead Animal Control for its quick referral on this case.”

In April, Acting DA Singas made a first-of-its-kind commitment to fully funding the care and rehabilitation of victims of animal cruelty using asset forfeiture funds. Dozens of animals, including Niño, have since been beneficiaries of this pledge. Singas’ pledge relieves any taxpayer burden for the care of abused animals.

The Nassau County District Attorney’s Office has sought to change antiquated laws related to animal crimes that are currently classified in the state’s Agriculture and Markets Law. The Consolidated Animal Crimes Bill (CACB) was authored by District Attorney Kathleen Rice’s administration and introduced in 2012 in an effort to protect animals and prosecute animal abuse cases. The office, now under the leadership of Acting District Attorney Singas, has continued to fight for the passage of the bill in Albany.

The Consolidated Animal Crimes Bill would greatly assist in the arrest, prosecution and sentencing of animal abusers by:

- Making the law more accessible to arresting officers. Currently, police officers are required to be trained on the state’s Penal Law, but not its Agriculture & Markets Law. Officers also typically have ready access to Penal Law handbooks, but not A&M Law. The Consolidated Animal Crimes Bill ensures that arresting officers have a more thorough grasp of the state’s animal crimes law when responding to a call or a crime scene and needing to decide whether or not to make arrests.

- Streamlining the language of the law so that it’s more clear and easy to understand.

- Aligning the practice of fingerprinting and DNA collection in order to assist in investigations and prosecutions. In the current A&M Law, animal crimes misdemeanors are generally not subject to fingerprinting or DNA collection, which is automatic under the Penal Law. Moving animal crimes to the Penal Law would align them with other crimes.

- Strengthening penalties against animal abusers. Current maximum sentences for felony animal cruelty or felony dogfighting (both unclassified felonies) are 2 and 4 years in prison, respectively, with no increase in sentence for repeat offenders. Under the Consolidated Animal Crimes Bill, those crimes become D felonies, which feature a maximum sentence of 7 years in prison, and repeat offenders can be exposed to increased prison time due to prior convictions.