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Nassau County DA: Uniondale Man Charged With Burning, Beating Girlfriend's Cat

MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- A Uniondale man had been arrested for allegedly burning and beating his girlfriend's cat, the Nassau County District Attorney said Friday.

Giovanni Santiago, 20, was arraigned Friday on charges of criminal mischief, aggravated cruelty to animals and overdriving, torturing and injuring animals, Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said.

"This defendant is accused of truly despicable and depraved acts of animal cruelty which left a helpless cat with permanent disfiguring injuries," Singas said in a statement. "Because there is a correlation between animal abuse and violence toward people, I will continue to advocate for tougher penalties for animal crimes. I commend the veterinarian who brought us this case and the members of our Animal Crimes Unit for their hard work and dedication."

From Sept. 2 of last year until Dec. 8, Singas said Santiago subjected his girlfriend's cat, named Verona, "to multiple blunt force traumas and burned the animal on her back."

The cat suffered multiple fractures to her tail vertebrae, broken and fractured teeth, facial swelling, abdominal and pelvic bruising, small puncture wounds, scabbing and loss of fur, Singas said.

During that time, authorities said the girlfriend brought Verona to Long Island Animal Hospital multiple times for treatment and a veterinarian reported the cat's injuries to the NCDA Animal Crimes Unit in December.

Investigators found that the suspect was regularly alone with the cat and that the girlfriend was unaware of the alleged abuse, believing Verona had an autoimmune disease.

The cat now has permanent tail disfigurement and scarring on her left side, where fur will never grow back, Singas said. Her total vet costs were $2,483.45.

The cat is being treated at North Shore Animal League and will be placed up for adoption once she is fully recovered.

Santiago was conditionally released to probation and was ordered not to have contact with any animal. The NCDA requested $50,000 cash bail or bond.

He is due back in court May 9 and if convicted of the top count, faces up to 2-1/3 years to seven years in prison.

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