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County repeats call for Hempstead Town animal care policy review

Town officials say they have enhanced care at

Town officials say they have enhanced care at the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter. Credit: Barry Sloan

The Hempstead Town animal shelter has followed about half of the recommendations in a county audit, but still has not completed a recommended operational review of animal care policies and practices, Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman said.

The comptroller’s office released a follow-up report last week on a 2019 audit examining the animal shelter’s finances and contracts. Auditors were unable to do an operational audit because a 2017 Nassau County Supreme Court order that ruled a broader review exceeded the comptroller’s authority. 

Backed by an appellate ruling earlier this year granting broader powers, Schnirman again recommended the town hire outside experts to conduct an independent review of the care of animals, after more than 50 complaints by residents and advocates concerned about treatment of animals and shelter operations. 

“Our office doesn’t have vets or animal experts,” Schnirman said. “We have financial experts to put together the report. We still think the logical next step forward is doing that expert review with subject matter experts.”

Hempstead Town spokesman Greg Blower said the audit and the findings — which covered operations from 2015 to 2017 — occurred under previous administrations. Town officials said in March that the town did not need to do any internal reviews outside regular auditing. The shelter has a $4 million annual budget and takes in about 4,000 dogs and cats each year. 

Supervisor Don Clavin’s administration responded to the comptroller’s follow-up recommendations.

“What’s more, year after year, the experts from New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets have given the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter the highest ratings in all categories,” Blower said. “Despite the fact that the audit covers previous administrations, Supervisor Don Clavin’s administration continues to make significant progress at the Animal Shelter, including a focus on implementing efficiencies, enhancing care and finding forever homes for loving cats and dogs.”

The original report included 13 findings and 37 recommendations, regarding purchasing, staffing, overtime and charitable funding that went unchecked. Schnirman’s follow-up report said the shelter “is working toward strengthening internal controls to improve the shelter’s accuracy” and “to decrease the risk of fraud, waste and abuse.” 

Schnirman said about half of the recommendations have been completed by the town and 35% were in progress.

Auditors were blocked initially in their review of town documents by the former town attorney and comptroller, who argued general staffing questions were ruled outside the county’s scope of authority. Auditors were not given an organizational chart or were allowed to visit without a prearranged appointment.

Schnirman also criticized the town’s Tails of Hope charity because donated private funds were not separately maintained and included in the town’s operating budget.

Auditors said the shelter still lacks controls to review overtime.

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