Kittens await adoption at the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter.

Kittens await adoption at the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter. Credit: Newsday, 2010 / Thomas A. Ferrara

Hempstead Town's animal shelter has been the focus of protests by animal welfare advocates since late October, when an internal town probe found what officials described as "issues that call for further assessment and investigation."

The town banned three animal rescue volunteers from the shelter, located in Wantagh, and moved its acting director Charles Milone from his post. Regina Thorne, a longtime shelter employee who worked as an adoption coordinator, was also transferred.

The Nassau district attorney's office announced its own shelter investigation at the time.

Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray has said administrative matters, and not animal abuse allegations, are at issue in the town probe. She has declined to be more specific.

In a statement Friday, a spokeswoman for District Attorney Kathleen Rice said: "We have an active, ongoing investigation in connection with the animal shelter and we have no further comment at this time."

Early last month, the three animal rescuers banned from the shelter filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court alleging that they were retaliated against for speaking out about mistreatment of animals at the agency and the need to improve conditions there.

In the lawsuit, the rescuers said they witnessed "many instances of clear animal abuse and neglect," including animals left on cold cement floors without blankets or beds, or in their own waste, and sick animals being ignored.

Murray said the town has uncovered no evidence of any animal mistreatment, and said the shelter is a safe place for them. Town officials point to an inspection done by state regulators last month that noted no deficiencies in the areas of care, record keeping and seizure of animals.

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