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Smithtown animal shelter director testifies at her hearing

Smithtown Animal Shelter director Sue Hansen in Nov.

Smithtown Animal Shelter director Sue Hansen in Nov. 2016. Hansen was suspended Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017 during an executive session of the town board, Town Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said Friday. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

Suspended Smithtown animal shelter director Sue Hansen testified in her civil service disciplinary hearing Thursday, offering a rebuttal of the case the town had built against her over two previous days of testimony.

The Town Board could vote to fire Hansen, pending the recommendation of the hearing officer.

Hansen said Thursday she imposed order on chaos after taking over the shelter in 2015, instituting regular staff meetings, training for volunteers and changes intended to improve the lives of animals under shelter care such as walking dogs in the morning.

She described a cramped and outdated facility crammed with material like expired pet food from donors. With no storage space inside, she said, “the one area that was an option were the outdoor kennels,” so she directed employees to move material there.

She said one of the shelter employees who testified against her was a disgruntled employee. And contrary to another witness’s testimony, Hansen said: “The animals never missed a meal.”

And, while town witnesses said she had not acted to fix or replace broken fire alarms, Hansen testified that she had requested help from the town’s Parks Department, to whom she regularly turned for assistance.

With a $2.4 million major renovation of the shelter promised, she said she hoped that “some of the run down conditions” would be addressed. But that renovation was repeatedly held up, she said.

Hansen’s attorney, Paul L Dashefsky, who was hired by the union representing the town’s department supervisors, asked his client about Muzzie, a dog that both the town and Hansen agreed had acted agressively before he bit a volunteer on the hand. A town witness had suggested the animal should have been euthanized before it had the chance to attack.

Hansen said she had initially resisted euthanizing the dog, who had shown signs of improvement under the care of an experienced shelter employee.

“I wanted to give him a little more time to see if he would come around and calm down,” Hansen said. “I felt it was only humane and fair.”

After the incident, though, Muzzie was put down.

Hansen’s disciplinary hearing will resume 10 a.m. May 25.

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