On Tuesday, animal rights activists showed up at the Oyster Bay Town Board meeting to raise awareness of issues regarding the animal shelter. Supervisor Joseph Saladino said the town will hire a behaviorist to help address some of the shelter's problems. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Animal welfare activists criticized Oyster Bay officials on Tuesday for moving too slowly and lacking transparency regarding changes to the town’s practice of euthanizing dogs at its animal shelter.

About a dozen speakers addressed the town board and called for an end to killing dogs for reasons other than end-of-life situations. Activists said the town was improperly designating dogs as aggressive and killing them. The animals should be rehabilitated, according to the activists.

“Why won’t the town of Oyster Bay make positive changes to the animal shelter?” asked Lori Prisand, 49, a dog walker from Plainview. “I can’t stress enough that there should be training and rehabilitation before any decision is made on a dog’s life.”

Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino said that since last year the town has made procedural changes to document additional information about how animals in the shelter are treated, evaluated and engage with staff.

“We do care about the lives of every animal,” Saladino said. “We care about the public safety. We care about doing the right thing.”

When activists brought the issues up last year at a March 26 meeting, Saladino said he was imposing a moratorium on the killing of dogs at the shelter while its practices were reviewed.

“I’m calling for no euthanization until at the very least that evaluation is complete and reviewed,” Saladino said at the time.

That moratorium lowered the town’s euthanasia rate and Saladino said the town had stopped taking animals from residents who brought them to be euthanized.

Saladino declined to reinstate a moratorium Tuesday, instead committing to discuss the issue with town board members.

Deputy Town Supervisor Gregory Carman Jr. said Tuesday that the moratorium ended after the town’s review of its practices had been completed.

At the urging of activists, last year the town issued a new request for proposals for a behaviorist to evaluate dogs rather than extend an existing contract.

Saladino said Tuesday that the bids had been rejected or withdrawn and a new request for proposals would be issued. Saladino said one bidder had been “disqualified” due to a pending lawsuit. Town spokesman Brian Nevin confirmed on Wednesday that it was trainer Christie Fanti, a Hempstead Town behaviorist who sued former Libertarian Hempstead supervisor candidate Diane Madden for defamation and libel in November over what Fanti alleged was a campaign to discredit her.

“The lawsuit was one factor in the decision to issue a new RFP for a behaviorist who has experience with both dogs and cats,” Nevin wrote in an email Wednesday.

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