Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 28 January 2011 00:00
Among the throng of animal lovers who stormed the Town Board meeting at the Nathan Bennett Pavilion in Hempstead on Tuesday, Jan. 25, Randi Diamond was the most adamant in her stance on the function of the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter in Wantagh.
Diamond, a self-employed, non-profit animal lover, started her own TNR (trap, neuter, return) program recently, which has her working at least 60 hours a week. Diamond has not filed to be determined a 501 3 (c) as of this time. She can be found on petfinder.com under Randi’s Rescues.
According to Diamond, the Town’s “bare bones” TNR program is just in place for the sake of having one. She feels that every shelter needs a comprehensive program.
“For years, this has been a problem,” Diamond said at the meeting. “One of the most significant animal concerns in the Town of Hempstead is adequate space for neutered cats.”
On average, the Town catches and neuters 25 cats per week, according to Town Supervisor Kate Murray. Diamond said at that pace, the process will never fix itself and the feral cat population will continue to grow.
“The proof is in the numbers,” she said. “At that rate, it won’t make a difference.”
The Town issued a release after the meeting, outlining its agenda in pet care. One of the bullet points noted a TNR program “to stem unwanted pregnancies among feral (wild) cats.” The animal shelter’s current budget is $7.1 million.
“Right now, we have the capacity to do 25 cats a week,” Murray said. “To that point, I have to respectively disagree that 25 cats per week will never help.”
Diamond fumed at that statement, saying that Murray is not out there every day watching as feral cats swarm in neighborhoods. Furthermore, she said that it would be a wake-up call if she were.
“You’re not out there doing TNR everyday and I am,” Diamond said. “I’m spending more than 60 hours of my time and money every week and I can tell you that you’re not correct.”
According to Diamond, she’ll catch 25 cats over the course of a day. Diamond feels it has gotten out of control.
“Feral cats are at times un-adoptable,” Diamond said. “People are finding them, trapping them, delivering them to shelters and they’re being killed.”
“The fact that you can say that 25 cats in a week is enough disturbs me,” she said. “With a budget of your size for an animal shelter, more can be done,” she concluded, prompting a thunderous clap from the crowd.
“You make some interesting suggestions,” Murray said. “Obviously, you’re in the field every day as an animal rescue expert. We appreciate the sacrifice you’ve made and are grateful for that. You’re suggesting a lot of change and we’re open to suggestions.”
Diamond wants a comprehensive TNR program and adequate workers at the shelter. “It’s essential for the system to work properly,” she said.
According to a statement released by the Town, attacks on the shelter’s budget, “are uninformed and demonstrate profound ignorance of municipal budgeting. We spent $220,000 on health care for animals while another major Long Island town spent $18,000 on medical expenses. Similarly, Hempstead feeds its pets $175,000 in food contrasted with a mere $5,000 by one of the Island’s other largest townships,” the statement read.
Included in the Town’s Progressive Pet Care Agenda Initiative, the statement said that the Town is interviewing for a full-time veterinary position as well as a pet rescue liaison. According to Town officials, the Town calls in veterinarians who stop by the shelter every day and are called any time there is a need for service. Furthermore, if it’s deemed appropriate, the animal is taken directly to an animal hospital.
Also, according to the Town’s statement, administrators have begun “preliminary talks with an area institute of higher learning that may result in animal care/ behaviorist students performing internships or related programs at the shelter.” Officials stated that the Town has begun an Intermunicipal Research Project to study pet shelter protocols and policies to develop a “best practice” program.
“I know that the Town’s Progressive Pet Care Agenda will result in enhanced care and more adoptions at the animal shelter in Wantagh,” Murray said. “As a person who cares deeply about animals, I am insistent that dogs and cats at our shelter receive the best care possible.”
“Diane, Lucille and Frances were working with the system at the shelter, helping it be the best that it could be at the shelter,” Diamond said. Diamond was referring to Frances Lucivero-Pelletier, Diane Madden and Lucille Defina, who said they were falsely accused of selling dogs to have them removed from the shelter.
The three former volunteers filed a lawsuit against the Town of Hempstead, Murray and seven other employees after the volunteers were banned from the shelter, where they had worked for years, for what they say is retaliation for speaking out to shelter employees and town officials about abuse and neglect.
“We’re not going away anytime soon,” Madden said while speaking to the press.
Madden told Anton Newspapers that when requests were made to the Town, they went unanswered and after persistent inquiries, they were banned from the facility. Murray declined to comment on the situation since it’s an ongoing legal matter with the three former volunteers.
“We’ve been turning to shelter management for years and years and years begging for help,” Madden said. “We want answers.”
Madden stated that she, Lucivero-Pelletier and Defina documented all the issues they’ve witnessed at the shelter in letters, emails, complaint reports, photographs etc. to shelter management. She said it’s her suspicion that “they silenced us.”
“I don’t see where the $7.1 million is going,” she said. “We have protests and rallies planned because many people want to come and speak and don’t have the freedom to speak.”