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New Leader for Troubled Hempstead Animal Shelter


Bebe, one of thre kittens up for adoption at the Hempstead Animal Shelter (courtesy of the Hempstead Animal Shelter Facebook Page)

Officials have picked a replacement to head up the troubled Hempstead Town Animal Shelter following a lengthy search amid probes into allegations of animal mistreatment at the Wantagh facility.


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Cynthia Iacopella, a former New York City animal control employee who has spent more than a decade working at animal shelters, zoos and wildlife rehabilitation centers, was hired as the town’s new assistant director this week. She will take the shelter’s top job once she soon completes the final three credits toward her bachelor’s degree in physical anthropology.

“I am eager to continue the successful programs and services already in place at the Hempstead Animal Shelter,” Iacopella, 39, of Huntington Station, said in a statement.

Her hiring comes as the shelter has been shrouded in scandal for months. Last fall, the town made policy changes and announced plans to hire a full-time veterinarian and other experts at around the same time local animal rescuers claimed they were barred from the facility after alleging animals there were being neglected and abused—although town officials have denied the allegations prompted the shake-up.

The rescuers later filed a lawsuit against the town over the dispute.

Representatives of Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice have said the office is investigating the shelter. Then in March, a nearly two-decade-old video surfaced on YouTube showing the shelter’s acting director Pat Horan mocking kittens that were about to be euthanized.

The town quickly reassigned Horan and a spokesman has said an investigation is underway into the disturbing video.

“This is just the first of many steps needing to be taken in order to solve the problems at this Shelter,” Derek Donnelly, director of Hope for Hempstead Shelter, wrote of Iacopella’s hiring. The group is a self-described reform advocacy organization that has been holding repeated protests outside the shelter in recent months.

Those looking to adopt an animal companion from the shelter can visit the center at 3320 Beltagh Ave. Wantagh, call 516-785-5220 or visit their Petfinder website.

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