Nassau SPCA investigating Hempstead shelter

A 2-month-old kitten named Andy is up for A 2-month-old kitten named Andy is up for adoption in the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter. The DA is investigating the shelter for animal abuse by employees. (Nov. 10, 2010) Photo Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

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The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal's Nassau County chapter is investigating the Town of Hempstead's animal shelter, bringing to three the number of inquiries into the troubled agency.

Nassau SPCA board of directors president Bob Sowers said Tuesday that concerned animal welfare advocates began contacting his group around the second week in November about possible problems at the shelter.

"We've had numerous people calling," Sowers said. "We'll look into it and go from there."

The SPCA, whose officers can enforce provisions of the state's animal welfare law - including issuing charges and making arrests - joins the Nassau County district attorney and Hempstead itself, which also have probes under way.

Town officials have insisted that their investigation and that of the district attorney involve administrative issues, not abuse of animals. Supervisor Kate Murray reiterated that position Tuesday, and said she welcomed scrutiny from the SPCA, which two weeks ago alerted the town to its inquiry.

"We really have nothing to hide," Murray said. "Any time they want to come in and look at our operations, the door is open to them."

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In late October, the town barred several volunteer animal rescuers from the grounds and brought findings from its internal investigation to the district attorney's office, which declined to comment on the scope of its inquiry Tuesday.

The shelter's acting director Charles Milone and adoption coordinator Regina Thorne were transferred from their posts in October. Pending resolution of the investigations, Milone and Thorne have continued to collect annual salaries of $122,559 and $83,612, respectively.

Sowers said he has not yet visited the shelter, but is taking statements from those with concerns. Part of that work involves separating hearsay from solid leads and evidence.

"You don't have to be beating an animal," to be guilty of abuse or neglect, he said.

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