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Hempstead looks to privatize animal shelter, control services

Officials say they want to implement changes at the shelter, which has been the subject of lawsuits and a Nassau County audit.

The Hempstead Animal Shelter on Feb. 1, 2018.

The Hempstead Animal Shelter on Feb. 1, 2018. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

The Town of Hempstead may privatize some components of its animal shelter in Wantagh, as well as the town’s animal control services, according to documents posted on the town’s website.

The town released a request for qualifications on Friday to seek submissions, which are due by March 30, the documents state.

A memo to the town board members from Supervisor Laura Gillen states that her goal is to “implement changes in the day-to-day operation of the shelter,” which could include working with private or nonprofit agencies.

The animal shelter’s finances are being audited by the Nassau County comptroller. The shelter has been plagued by controversies for years, with animal advocates showing up at every town board meeting with their concerns.

There are multiple pending lawsuits against the shelter, alleging mistreatment of animals and mismanagement of shelter procedures.

“Issues have been festering at the animal shelter for years,” Gillen said in a phone interview Monday. “I feel like we have to take a comprehensive look at it and explore all our options.”

The town also released Friday requests for proposals for veterinary services and an animal behavior consultant, according to the documents.

The request for qualifications, or RFQ, to privatize at least some services of the 19,000-square-foot shelter and animal control services seeks responses from “regional and national organizations” that could partner with the town.

Gillen’s memo also suggested installing extra security cameras and additional training for staff and volunteers. It also said each staff member will be interviewed by the supervisor’s staff and reassignments could come.

Members of the town board sent a response memo to Gillen on Monday, asking for a financial impact study to see the potential effect of the proposed changes on taxpayers.

“The board supports all efforts to improve the performance of the animal shelter,” the response memo stated, noting that Gillen’s ideas are a “starting point that need to be significantly refined with input” from various town officials.

The shelter has a budget about $4 million and houses nearly 60 cats and more than 120 dogs.

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