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Rescue groups air concerns over Hempstead animal shelter

A 2-month-old kitten named Andy is up for

A 2-month-old kitten named Andy is up for adoption in the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter. The DA is investigating the shelter for animal abuse by employees. (Nov. 10, 2010) Photo Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

As the Nassau district attorney's office continues its probe of Hempstead Town's animal shelter, local rescuers with long-standing concerns about a bloated budget and abuse of dogs and cats at the agency are saying, "Told you so."

At a town meeting this week, rescuers said animals had been subjected to severe neglect and horrific abuse.

While they won't give specifics, officials insist problems at the shelter don't involve animal abuse.

The town banned several rescuers from the shelter in late October after its own, ongoing, internal investigation and it remains unclear what role, if any, they play in the scandal. For years, the rescuers had sought to find homes for animals at the shelter, which practices euthanasia.

Town officials, who contacted the district attorney last month, would not say why the rescuers had been barred. Supervisor Kate Murray said she was surprised by the abuse allegations, and none of the rescuers had gone to the district attorney with such charges.

Murray wouldn't offer details on the town or the district attorney's investigations, but said administrative matters, not animal abuse, are the focus.

Acting shelter director Charles Milone, a Hempstead employee for eight years, and adoption coordinator Regina Thorne, an employee for 24 years, have been transferred from their jobs pending the outcome of the probes. Milone and Thorne continue to collect annual salaries of $122,559 and $83,612 respectively.

The shelter has a budget of $7.1 million this year.

Frances Lucivero, a Levittown rescuer who was banned from the shelter, said neither she nor any of the other barred rescuers had spoken with the district attorney's office. Lucivero said she didn't know what the office, which declined to discuss the investigation, was looking into, but doesn't think it has to do with rescue work at the shelter.Lucivero said too little of the shelter's money is used to help the animals and she would like to see a full-time staff veterinarian and an animal behaviorist.

"They have a $7 million budget," Lucivero said, "and that outrages me as a taxpayer."

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