Windex deliberately sprayed in the faces of dogs by shelter workers. Incomplete and inaccurate official Controlled Substance Logs regarding mass euthanasia of cats. Animals with ticks embedded so deeply into their skin, left ignored and untreated for years in the shelter, that surgery is required to remove the parasites from their bodies. Five years of records, from 2010 to 2014, obtained under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) document allegations from the public, volunteers and representatives from experienced animal rescue organizations, detailing the ongoing mistreatment and neglect of shelter animals entrusted to the care of the Town of Smithtown Animal Shelter (TOS). You have the power to change the lives of the voiceless in this one town; the next meeting is scheduled for October 22, 2015.
Smithtown, located on the north shore of Long Island, N.Y., is a town of approximately 118,000 residents. Many of those residents have been asking their Town Council for reform of their shelter, attending meetings and speaking out since November 2014. The citizens are very concerned about the care and welfare of the animals of TOS, have provided viable suggestions in these town meetings as to how to humanely and efficiently reform their shelter, including guidance from the New York State Humane Society. In April, 2015, and multiple times since then, a detailed 14-page report has been provided to members of the Town Council and the Town Attorney, based on the Town’s own documents, showing the need for complete reform of TOS. Exhibiting a complete lack of interest, the Town Council has repeatedly ignored all offers of assistance and has taken no steps to reform on its own. To date, not one item in the report has been addressed by the Town of Smithtown.
In fact, in March, 2015, Supervisor Patrick Vecchio was overheard on tape calling the animal advocates and volunteers “wackos.” When CBS ran the story, he apologized for verbally using the term, but that in no way absolves why he said it nor explains his thoughts behind using the slur towards members of his own constituency. Vecchio is Long Island’s longest-serving town supervisor.
TOS records show that there are currently seven employees: one office worker, three kennel workers, three animal control officers and the shelter Director, who assumed the position in August, 2015, after the previous Director, 30-year veteran George Beatty, resigned in May, 2015, with his full pension. Beatty left under a cloud of suspicion after the Town was shown its own documents wherein nine cats euthanized on August 14, 2012 were not included in the Controlled Substance Log.
The Town’s own documents, and volunteer accounts of the events that day, state that the cats were rounded up in fishing nets and killed at the shelter. Records show that nine of the cats killed on August 14, 2012, are not listed in the Controlled Substance Log. This Log lists the drugs used to euthanize each individual animal, but, as to those nine cats, it is silent. This is significant because all shelters in N.Y. must maintain careful records of the controlled substances on hand and used in euthanasia. These records are reported to New York State every six months. The Town claims their records are accurate; so how were these nine cats euthanized? The Town Attorney, Matthew Jakubowski, was presented with documents regarding this event on May 11, 2015, which was followed by additional letters sent to him, Mr. Vecchio and shelter liaison and Town Councilwoman Lynn Nowick urging the Town of Smithtown to investigate. On July 24, 2015, Mr. Jakubowski met with Attorney Joyce Glass, from Lake Grove, N.Y., who had drafted the report provided to the Town Council and Town Attorney. Ms. Glass has provided all records regarding TOS to this Examiner. In his final statement that day, Mr. Jakubowski confirmed that yes, 28 cats were indeed euthanized on August 14, but no further information was available, and no investigation of the nine cats at issue would take place.
The official TOS records provided by the town in response to the FOIL request are highly disturbing in their content, when compared to the number of animals that pass through the shelter for that same period of time. Town records indicate that the number of dogs ranged from a low of 193 in 2010 to 250 in 2014. The headcount for cats during that time was significantly higher; in 2013 records indicate 228 cats went through the shelter, the lowest number recorded, while the highest was in 2014, when 323 cats passed through. At any one time, there are usually between 60-80 cats housed in the shelter, the majority of them free-roaming, and approximately 10 dogs.
There is no veterinarian on staff. There are no contracted veterinarians. The records provided to Examiner by Attorney Glass, indicate that, until she initiated a visit to the shelter by a veterinarian in May, 2015, which was done at no cost to the Town, no veterinarian had been inside the facility for many years, if ever. When medical records of the current animals at the Shelter were provided, after many requests, those records revealed that, in many cases, the cats had not received any type of medical attention for routine vaccinations for up to seven years. They have failed to conduct routine heartworm tests on dogs. One dog, a Husky named Diesel, rescued by Northern Siberian Husky Rescue in April 2015, tested positive for heartworms, had a double ear infection and a UTI when he was rescued. This led to thousands of dollars being spent by the rescue to care for Diesel. Here is his fundraiser; he is still looking for a home. Diesel is also recovering from surgery to his eye stemming from a wound received in a dogfight at the shelter, but not addressed. Records also show a cat was listed as euthanized on August 14, 2012, but other TOS documents show the same cat was adopted December 28, 2012.
When Amanda Wilson, a representative of Golden Paws, a local rescue organization, addressed a Town board meeting in 2014, she spoke about what she, as a rescuer, experienced firsthand in dealing with the shelter. The conditions she witnessed included filthy conditions, lack of vet care, a cat who had been at the shelter for a year with no medical attention and had injuries consistent with chemical burns on his paws. Cats with ear mites which resulted in permanent damage because they were never medically addressed. Her rescue has spent thousands of dollars on care for the animals rescued from just this Shelter. In retaliation for her speaking out at the board meeting, after that video was posted, Mr. Beatty, who was Director at the time, banned them from the shelter.
Here are some startling statistics regarding vet care at this shelter:
——–Budget for Vet Care———Actual Amount Spent on Vet Care/Medication
2012——$16,000————————$6,048.50/ $0.00 (verified)
2014——$14,000————————$2,101.50/ $0.00 (verified)
Total spent on vet care and medication for 2010-2014 $22,494.00
———-Budget for Food & Litter——Actual Amount Spent on Cat Food/Dog Food/Litter
2010——–$5,000————————-$104.00/ $0.00/ $4,564.00
2011——–$6,000————————-$319.40/ $0.00/ $6,934.00
2012——–$6,000————————-$2,267.40/ $47.00/ $5,347.00
2013——–$6,000————————-$1,791.90/ $103.96/ $4,519.00
2014——–$6,000————————-$2,314.00/ $450.90/ $6,278.00
Total spent on cat food for 2010-2014 $6,796.70
Total Spent on dog food for 2010-2014 $601.90
Total Spent on cat litter for 2010-2014 $27,642.00
These numbers seems astronomically low, in comparison to the amount of animals housed in the shelter, even when thinking about how much you spend on your own pets over the course of a single year. The town residents and others associated with the shelter have spoken publicly at videotaped Town Board meetings in April 2014, November 2014, January 2015 and February 2015 regarding spending their own funds to purchase food, supplies and vet care for the animals. They have done so because of eyewitness reports by volunteers that much of the food provided by the shelter and fed to the animals was expired or filled with maggots. Visitors to the shelter have had to step over piles of feces on the floor. Litter boxes are not kept cleaned.
According to Ms. Glass, TOS has no written policies and procedures at the Shelter, nor have they ever existed. Again, there are no contracts between the shelter and any veterinarians. One veterinarian’s summary report shows he saw approximately 1,000 animals over the course of the five years examined in this FOIL study, but he can produce no actual medical records. This same veterinarian was paid by cash by the shelter for years. Cash brought into the Shelter was used at the discretion of Mr. Beatty. The Town became aware of this after a volunteer brought the issue to light, but no disciplinary action was taken by the Town against Mr. Beatty and no investigation was launched.
Last week, Examiner spoke with long-time volunteer John Urbancik, who confirmed the contents of Ms. Glass’s report. Mr. Urbancik initially came to the shelter to assist with the cats. Over the course of his more than five years as a volunteer, he has also taken on the responsibilities of caring for the dogs. He knows the dispositions of the animals, knows which dogs should not come in contact with each other. His recommendations go unheeded; one situation involved two dogs who got into a fight, received puncture wounds to their faces, were sprayed with Windex to separate them, and were not taken to a vet for their injuries. Mr. Urbancik offered to pay for the vetting out of his own pocket; that offer was declined by TOS. It is reported that a freezer is located behind the shelter, where the remains of deceased animals are kept. It was reported to this Examiner by Mr. Urbancik that the previous Shelter Director forced a mentally challenged volunteer to keep her lunch in that freezer. He was a witness to that bizarre abuse of power.
There is no trainer for the dogs, no adoption promotions, no relationship with local groomers. TOS has no rescue partners, no fostering program, and does not attempt to recruit new volunteers. It has been reported to the Examiner that the descriptions posted of the animals at the shelter on Petfinder were inaccurate, based upon previous behavior evaluations obtained in June 2015 by Ms. Glass and provided to the shelter. That has resulted in animals being adopted and returned shortly after due to behavioral issues that were not addressed by the shelter. One photo included here is of Stella. Stella is nine years old, and Ms. Glass has tried very hard to find her a new home. Stella has been at TOS for two years, needs some training after all that time, but deserves a chance to spend her remaining years in a home. The other still is of Dinah, another volunteer favorite looking for her forever home. You can watch her video and read about her here, The new Shelter Director, Susan Hansen, inherited the conditions in which the shelter was left when Mr. Beatty vacated his position. Ms. Hansen is trying to make the best out of a dire situation, instituting what changes she can, but her hands are virtually tied by the Town Council.
There was an advisory board, but last month, Newsday reported that three of the council members quit. Animal Welfare Attorney Elizabeth Stein, Diane Madden, and Lucille DeFina, announced their resignation at the Sept. 24, 2015 town board meeting, citing the town board’s failure to act on their recommendations. On October 7, Smithtown Mattersreported that one of the Town Council members, Councilwoman Lynne Nowick, had promised this advisory board that an animal behaviorist would be hired. Many of the animals at the shelter have been housed for years, becoming cage-crazed in the process. After conferring with the Town Attorney, and the Town Comptroller, Ms. Nowick went back to these three council members, and told them that no behaviorist would be hired. This decision led to the resignation of the advisory board. The Town supervisor released his 2016 budget on Monday and in it were additional funds that could, if Director Susan Hansen chooses, be used to hire a behaviorist.
Consider the budget allocations for TOS for the past six years, according to the FOIL review. Decide for yourself if you believe, in light of the current living conditions for the animal inhabitants of the shelter, that hiring an animal behaviorist, even on a part-time consultant basis, would be beneficial to the residents.
Total Budget ————-Salaries ———Veterinary ———Animal supplies (food)
2010 $632,700——— $606,050.00 ——–$4,800—————–$5,000
2012 not provided—–not provided———$10,000—————-$6,717
A dedicated group of volunteers, animal advocates and an animal-loving lawyer have decided that the time for askingfor change has long since passed. Now it is time to demand change for the animals in the Town of Smithtown Animal Shelter. This group has chosen to become the voice for these voiceless animals, and, once you make that choice, your duty as a human being takes over, and you will continue to campaign for the voiceless.
Ms. Glass would like it noted that there are a few employees of the Shelter who are ‘swimming against the tide’ to try to do what is right for the animals. However, they can only accomplish so much when the entire system is broken and those making the ultimate decisions are the roadblocks to reform. This group has viable suggestions for corrective action, which include
- Draft and enforce a complete set of policies and procedures for the shelter including veterinary care and euthanasia, which would include a board consisting of a veterinarian’s opinion on these issues
- Bid out contracts for food, vetting and cremation
- Assign an individual dedicated to implementing organized foster, volunteer and adoption promotion programs, who will also develop relationships with rescue groups
The next Town meeting is scheduled for October 22, 2015 at 7:00 p.m. If anyone wishes to contact Lynn Nowick or Supervisor Vecchio they can call 631-360-7512. Nowick’s email is: email@example.com. Supervisor Vecchio:firstname.lastname@example.org. The other members of the Town Board are Thomas McCarthy: email@example.com; Edward Wehrheim: firstname.lastname@example.org; and Robert Creighton: email@example.com. If you have any questions or would like to receive a copy of the report cited in this article, please contact Joyce M. Glass, P.C., 516-584-1595, or at firstname.lastname@example.org,