Advocates from several Long Island animal-rights groups gathered at the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter in Wantagh on Thursday morning to rally for improved conditions and fiscal responsibility at the troubled shelter.
“We demand that they lower the budget and improve services here,” Derek Donnelly, of the newly formed group Hope for Hempstead Shelter, said of reports that the shelter operates on a $7 million annual budget. “Both can be done. This is a completely bloated budget here—it’s a patronage mill.”
Nassau County prosecutors launched an investigation into the shelter late last year for administrative issues while Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray announced a handful of policy changes.
Lucille DeFina, an animal advocate, said she and other rescuers were banned from the shelter last year and said Thursday that the ban remains intact, despite Murray’s assurances of more transparency.
“We’re still banned,” DeFina said. “We still do not know why we were banned—why they stopped us from doing something what we loved, that we did with a passion, that we did every day of our lives, just out of love.”
Shelter officials had no comment, but Town of Hempstead spokesman Mike Deery refuted Donnelly’s allegation that the shelter is a “patronage mill.”
“That’s the voice of ignorance, of someone who doesn’t know the facts,” Deery told the Press. “Shelter employees are qualified, have passed civil service tests, and many of them have decades of experience.”
“[The rescued animals] are here,” DeFina said. “Yes, hoarding is not a pretty thing, and it’s wrong, and they did come from bad situations. But I don’t feel so comfortable that this is a fantastic situation, either.”
Deery didn’t agree with DeFina’s assessment.
“Our shelter is tremendously well run,” Deery said. “It’s clean, and the employees care. Our staff is excellent and loves animals. They removed dogs and cats from heart-breaking situations, exposing themselves to situations that weren’t ideal.”
A few Town of Hempstead Public Safety officers were at the shelter before most of the protesters arrived. The protesters convened without incident.