Three employees of the Hempstead Town animal shelter have joined forces with an animal advocate to sue the shelter, Hempstead officials, and shelter administrators over allegations of retaliation after they complained about the director’s treatment of animals.
Animal advocate Diane Madden, a longtime critic of the Hempstead facility; shelter employees Nancy Giris and Dolores Stormo and former employee Wendy Cariello are seeking the dismissal of animal shelter director Michael Pastore, and to place the oversight of the animal shelter into private administration.
“Their main motivation is that they want to see positive change at the shelter,” said attorney Jonathan Tand of Garden City after a news conference to announce the lawsuits were filed Monday in U.S. District Court.
Town officials declined to comment.
“The town does not comment on pending litigation,” said Hempstead Town spokesman Mike Deery.
Madden filed one lawsuit against Pastore for impeding her volunteer work at the shelter, and the three employees filed a separate lawsuit alleging a hostile work environment for speaking out against shelter policies.
The lawsuits say that since Pastore was hired in 2014, the shelter has stopped any efforts to rehabilitate incoming animals for potential adoption in favor of euthanizing the animals.
The lawsuit also said that Pastore retaliated against the three employees for publicly critizing the shelter’s kill policies by creating a hostile work environment and replacing employees with like-minded colleagues.
The Hempstead animal shelter was audited in 2011 by the state comptroller’s office and sued by Madden in 2013 based on complaints of mismanagement. The shelter was the focus of protests in Sept. 2015 over its alleged mistreatment of animals. At that time, Madden called the shelter a “kill facility.”
As a result of the audit and the 2013 lawsuit, former Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray implemented a policy to move the shelter away from “kill” policies toward a “progressive adoptive center,” according to the lawsuits.
Despite subsequent improvements and commitment to animal welfare, Madden said, Pastore has now “implemented and brought back to life all the political games to take back the jobs, and the animals have suffered.”