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State to audit Hempstead animal shelter

This American Staffordshire waits to be adopted from

This American Staffordshire waits to be adopted from the Town of Hempstead Animal shelter in Wantagh. (Jan. 26, 2011) Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Responding to "hundreds of complaints," State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said yesterday that he'll audit the Town of Hempstead's animal shelter.

The comptroller's office said its review of the shelter's financial operations would start in the next few weeks. It is the latest scrutiny of the department with about 30 full-time employees, nine of whom made more than $100,000 in 2010.

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice already is investigating an undisclosed shelter issue, while an internal town probe earlier this year resulted in the transfer of two workers.

"Our goal is to ensure the integrity of financial accountability related to the Hempstead Animal Shelter," DiNapoli said in a statement.

Rice, who requested the state's audit, said it would be "essential to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being properly spent on the care and well-being of the animals."

Newsday has reported that the shelter spent $7.1 million in 2010 to handle 3,498 animals. New York City, which handled nearly 38,000 animals that year, had about the same budget. Hempstead's shelter spending is proposed at $7.45 million in 2012.

"Issues at the animal shelter have been politicized by some disgruntled people for over a year," town spokesman Mike Deery said. "We welcome the state comptroller's audit, and are confident his findings will affirm the fact that the shelter is well run and government funds are spent for the care and well-being of our animals."

Former volunteers at the shelter have protested treatment of its animals. Diane Madden, one of those volunteers now banned from the facility, cheered the audit announcement.

"Officials in charge of our animals and our money need to be accountable," she said. "There was a lot of money being spent there, and it was apparent that the animals were not seeing any of it."

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