Written by Melissa Argueta, Rich Forestano, and Christy Hinko Friday, 18 March 2011 00:00
As if the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter didn’t need any more bad press, a video was anonymously posted on Sunday, March 13 on YouTube. The 17-year-old footage depicts then-kennel foreman Pat Horan watching shelter workers slip a catch-pole around the neck of a kitten and lift it into the air, as they allegedly prepare it to be euthanized.
One worker is seen making obscene and lewd gestures, even mocking the killing of the animal, while Horan is seen laughing and giving the middle finger to the person filming the video. As the kitten squirms wildly, someone off-camera cheers, “Kill the kitty; kill the kitty.”
According to Town officials, Pat Horan was a kennel foreman at the time the video was allegedly taken. The video labeled Horan as kennel supervisor.
One of the current kennel supervisors is Deborah Bove, who has been employed with the Town of Hempstead since 1986, where she began as a dog control officer.
At one point in the video, “Debbie, do you want to kill a kitten?” was said. Town officials would not confirm nor deny if it was Bove, but said they are still conducting an investigation into the entire video.
The Town also reported that Horan began working for the Town of Hempstead in October 1985, and that she was promoted to the shelter director position in November 2010. Horan reportedly made over $100,000 last year.
A Town spokesperson said Horan was reassigned to another position within the Town of Hempstead on Monday, March 14. As of press time, neither the shelter nor Horan could be reached for comment.
The Town spokesperson also said that Deputy Attorney for the Town of Hempstead, Sue Jacobs, will be overseeing the day-to-day operations of the shelter, in the interim, in concert with General Services Commissioner Bruce Hallbert until a new shelter director is appointed. Hallbert already oversees that department, as well as several others, according to Town officials.
Derek Donnelly, a spokesperson for animal activist group Hope for Hempstead, has coordinated several animal rights rallies at the Town’s public board meetings and at the Town’s shelter, including one that is scheduled for Saturday, March 19. “The age of the ‘Kill the Kitty’ video is irrelevant,” said Donnelly. “The Town continues to make one irresponsible decision after another – and all on the taxpayer’s dime,” Donnelly said.
A written statement issued by the Town of Hempstead said, “Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray has reacted with shock and dismay over the actions contained in a 17-year-old video filmed at the township’s animal shelter. The Supervisor has responded swiftly, reassigning the shelter’s acting director Pat Horan to a position outside of the shelter pending the outcome of an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the video.
“Supervisor Murray stated that she has taken immediate action on this matter to ensure that animals at the town’s shelter receive the highest quality of care.
“The video shows a former private (non-town) animal hospital employee handling a cat and a town kennel worker who has not worked for the town in over 16 years. An off-camera voice is heard uttering an ugly and unacceptable phrase. An interview with Pat Horan, titled as the source of the off-camera phrase, has been met with an emphatic denial that her voice was on the video.”
On Dec. 8, 2010, three shelter volunteers, Diane Madden, Lucille DeFina and Frances Lucivero-Pelletier, filed a lawsuit against the Town of Hempstead and eight of its employees for being banned as volunteers without an official explanation, they say, from the Town’s Animal Shelter. The three volunteers allege that they were banned from the shelter in October 2010 after making claims of animal abuse and neglect.
“It is obvious that the mindset of the shelter has not changed over the years and our community’s homeless and helpless animals continue to be at the mercy of those who will do them harm,” said Madden.
Randi Diamond, a self-employed, non-profit animal activist who started her own TNR (trap, neuter, return) program for feral cats in Nassau County, reacted to the video.
Diamond said she was disturbed about the YouTube video. She told Anton Newspapers that it is a prime example of the, “unevenness of the shelter, even though the video is 17 years old and that it is much cheaper to TNR a cat then to take them in, house them and kill them.”
“It was savage,” she said. “There’s absolutely no reason to ever handle any animal in that way. It’s disgusting. The point is that this is not unique behavior. Regardless of how old this video is, it is an illustration of the kind of behavior that goes on in the attitudes of the workers that are there. People need to wonder how many animals were treated like the cat in that video since it was recorded.
“A full TNR program needs to be fulfilled and needs to have vets on board experienced in the care of feral cats, and I’ve given them names,” Diamond said. “There’s been no follow through.”
Hope for Hempstead’s Donnelly told the Anton Newspapers that his group hopes the District Attorney and State Comptroller will step up and investigate the myriad allegations.
The animal shelter’s total budget is $7.1 million. The primary budget totals $3.6 million, with $3.5 million in spending coming from town departments that work on the shelter’s behalf.