CLEVELAND, Ohio -- A Cleveland woman changed her plea in the middle of a trial on animal abuse-related charges on Wednesday.
Tamara Johnson, 35, was facing abandoning animals, neglect and cruelty charges after a dog was found chained up and emaciated at her former home in Cleveland. She had previously entered a not guilty plea, but it was changed to no contest in court.
Prosecutors said Johnson left her dog behind when she moved last May. The female mixed breed, named Artemis, was found chained outside two months later on a hot day.
“She had fly bites on her ears, she had some scarring from basically being left outside, and the flies allowed to cause damage to the skin,” said Julie Konopinski from the animal rescue group Friends of the Cleveland Kennel.
“There was no food, no water,” said animal control officer Tony Brand. “There was, like, grass or something growing in the water bowl, and the dog was real skinny.”
Prior to changing her plea midway through the proceeding, Johnson’s case marked the first time an abandonment trial was held in Cleveland.
As part of her plea deal, prosecutors dropped the neglect charge, but the two other misdemeanor charges remained.
She’ll be sentenced on Jan.29 when her attorney said he’ll address the court.
“We look forward to the 29th and to that mitigation because Tamara Johnson is essentially not the type of person the city was painting her to be,” said Michael Heffernan.
Johnson is facing up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine for each misdemeanor charge.
The chief animal control officer said this happens more often than people think.
“This past year, we’ve impounded 143 dogs that were abandoned,” said Chief John Baird. “That means they were left in empty houses or tied up in backyards, and people just left. There’s avenues for you to take these dogs than just leave them.”