Jul 29, 2014
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Former Town Animal Shelter Rescuers Sue Hempstead

Three women banned as rescue workers file lawsuit against town officials in hopes of being allowed back into Wantagh facility.

Former Town Animal Shelter Rescuers Sue Hempstead

Three women that were banned as volunteer animal rescue workers at the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter in Wantagh nearly two months ago are now fighting back.

A lawsuit filed this month in U.S District Court by Diane Madden of East Meadow, Lucille DeFina of Merrick and Frances Lucivero-Pelletier of Levittown claims they were penalized by the town for speaking out about abuse at the shelter and alleges that lies have been spread about them by Hempstead officials.

The three former rescue workers at the animal shelter are seeking unspecified compensation and permission to be allowed back at the facility on 3320 Beltagh Ave., Wantagh. The three women had worked at the shelter for many years seeking out adoptions for animals that were at risk for euthanasia.

The lawsuit states that the three volunteer animal rescue workers were banned from the Town of Hempstead Animal shelter on Oct. 22, 2010 after "speaking out to shelter employees and town officials about the cruel and inhuman instances of animal abuse and neglect they observed at the shelter." The lawsuit also alleges that the women were also prohibited from being able to enter the Town of Hempstead facility.

"They want to be back at the shelter and helping the animals," said Steve Morelli, a Garden City attorney representing the three plaintiffs. "They are being penalized for expressing their opinions."

Hempstead Town spokeswoman Susan Trenkle-Pokalsky said the town has not reviewed the lawsuit yet and has a policy of not commenting on pending litigation.

The lawsuit comes three weeks after Hempstead town officials announced that they were formulating a plan aimed at improving pet care at its animal shelter. The Town of Hempstead has been conducting an internal review of policy and procedures at the shelter. The Nassau County District Attorney's office and Nassau County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are also doing inquiries into the shelter's practices.

Hempstead officials have not commented on the specifics of the probes into the shelter but Town Supervisor Kate Murray has emphasized that the investigations are related to administrative matters and not the result of any reports of animal cruelty or mistreatment.

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