Crowd of more than 140 people listen to concerns about...

Crowd of more than 140 people listen to concerns about the Smithtown Animal Shelter, at Smithtown Town board public meeting on Nov. 20, 2014 at the Eugene A. Cannataro Senior Citizen Center. Credit: Lauren R. Harrison Credit: Lauren R. Harrison

More than 140 animal advocates crowded into a contentious Smithtown board meeting last week to demand changes in conditions and animal care some called deplorable.

Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said he asked shelter director George Beatty to submit a report about the claims -- including a lack of cleanliness, unprofessional staff, and lethargic cats with obvious signs of ear mites and malnourishment. Vecchio said he also asked Beatty to assess whether suggestions, such as the weekly employment of an animal nurse, were feasible.

Former shelter volunteer Karen Stemberg, of Medford, said at the Nov. 20 meeting that she was the sole witness to the euthanization of 30 cats. "That was totally unfair, outrageous, disgusting, cruel behavior," said Stemberg. "I'll never get over it."

Susan Fox, 42, of Nesconset, said she volunteered at the shelter eight years ago and at that time, animal areas weren't cleaned up and dogs were not taken out for walks. "I basically was skating in feces to try to get one to go outside," she said.//end web only//But Beatty called the allegations unfair. "I would encourage people to just come in and see for themselves," he said.

A petition posted on change.org has gathered 1,225 signatures requesting Beatty's resignation and the formation of an animal advocate committee to select a new shelter director independent of a civil service list.

Beatty, who has worked at the shelter for 29 years, said dogs are walked daily and the kennels, cat room and cages are also hosed and disinfected daily. He disputed Stemberg's euthanasia allegation, saying that 15 feral cats were euthanized because of an outbreak of calicivirus -- a serious respiratory infection.

"In order to cure that we had to medicate about 60 cats twice a day with antibiotics," he said. "We determined the best course of action would be to euthanize them because they were spreading the virus."

Dr. Charles Greco, a Centereach-based veterinarian, said the Smithtown shelter in the past three years has brought him more than 1,000 animals to be spayed and neutered.

"Smithtown is doing their best," he said, adding that some of the diseases he has seen at the shelter are common in the stray population and euthanasia can be the best way to stop the spread of disease.

Lillian Lennon, 58, of East Moriches, a volunteer for the RSVP Inc. Animal Welfare & Rescue Group, worried about the shelter's budget, saying employee's wages should "never be at the expense of the care of the animal residents."

Smithtown's 2015 budget calls for $23,000 in veterinary expenses and supplies -- up from $16,000 budgeted in 2014. Beatty has said the budget is sufficient because the shelter gets discounted rates. Salaries for full-time and part-time staff, plus overtime, are to increase to nearly $638,000 in 2015, up from nearly $609,000 budgeted this year.

Thomas Kasper, 45, of Shirley, has adopted six cats from the shelter and said the building -- not the staff -- should be improved. "The building itself is shot," he said. "You can only do so much with what they have there."

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