Doctor, Lawyer, Wall St. Executive, Hempstead Animal Shelter Worker?

The average salary for a veterinarian in the state of NY is $60,000.  The Town of Hempstead, NY has 29 full time employees at its animal shelter.  Nine of them made over $100,000 last year.  None of them is a vet.  In fact, the shelter doesn’t have a vet on staff.

Some of you may remember the Hempstead shelter from this post in November 2010.  Three volunteers who blew the whistle on cruelty and neglect at the shelter were summarily banned.  And the town supervisor and board promised they would investigate and police themselves.  The three volunteers have since filed a lawsuit.

The Hempstead shelter has an annual budget of $7.1 million dollars.  About half of that goes to pay the staff.  The shelter took in 3498 animals last year.  Digest that math.

Unless these animals are being pampered in some kind of doggie and kitty spa, having their toenails painted with 14 karat gold polish and eating grass fed beef from a private farm maintained exclusively to raise food animals to feed the shelter’s pets, there’s something funky going on here.

At a public board meeting on January 25, emotions ran high.  People were upset about the lack of reform at the shelter.  If you can stomach sanctimonious BS, you can read the town supervisor’s responses in this article.  (Take your blood pressure meds first.  Maybe take extra.)

This editorial describes a government employee meeting supporters of shelter reform at the town board meeting:

[At the board meeting], I met a group of people that I can only call “angels.”  One after another, these selfless people spoke of incidents of animal cruelty and neglect and how animals that they loved were saved by two women who were banned from the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter.

Dianne Madden from East Meadow and Lucille DeFina from Merrick are volunteers who help find home for dogs and cats that are caged at the shelter.  What struck me about these women is their compassion for the animals. They are truly guardian angels that spend their lives rescuing our town’s unwanted and abused animals. And spending a morning listening to case after case of  medical neglect and abuse, I was outraged that these women were not allowed to continue their extraordinary acts of kindness.

Before meeting these people, I had no idea that sick animals were left unattended; that necessary medical procedures were not being done and that animals were euthanized for having a cold or a skin rash. District attorney Kathleen Rice is still investigating the animal shelter.

The problem with the Town of Hempstead is that there is no oversight.

That about says it.

$7.1 million dollars to spend saving 3500 pets a year.  And yet the shelter staff allegedly allows them to suffer without care and kills them if they have a cold or a skin condition.  These people must be laughing all the way to the bank.

16 thoughts on “Doctor, Lawyer, Wall St. Executive, Hempstead Animal Shelter Worker?

    1. OK Heather but I’m going to have to dock your pay so you’ll only be earning $90,000 this year. I’m sorry to have to do that but the economy has been in a slump for awhile now and we all need to tighten our belts.

  1. I am rendered speechless. Please, somebody pay me that kind of money and turn me loose, I can guarantee that there will be a better standard of care within hours, and animal adoptions will go sky high… and that’s without any specialized training.

  2. These shelters will be the death knell for the industry in the next five years if the situation does not improve. As the economy continues limping along taxpayers will begin to demand more and more scrutiny, transparency and performance on money spent.

    The public will begin to shift toward supporting rescue groups as they recognize the “bang for the buck” rescue groups can deliver. It is up to the shelter industry leaders to recognize how fat and lazy sheltering has become over the last 25-30 years and begin some quick corrections.

    At the other end of the wasteful spectrum is Marin Humane Society. They are known as a very caring group but if you want one of the poorest “bang for the buck” PRIVATE operations in the country look at this bloated operation:

    Marin HS took in a “whopping” 4,053 animals in 2009 (that’s only about 500 more than Hempstead). To handle that itty bitty number of animals they paid out in labor costs over $4 MILLION (4,244,480 to be exact). That is 78.5% of their total 2009 revenue! Nearly 80¢ of every dollar goes to their staff.

    Not disgusted yet? Get this: Marin HS has a CEO, a CFO, a COO, a CDO (development officer), 10 directors, various managers, 20 (yes 20!) paid staff trainers. All that to handle just over 4,000 animals in a year.

    Shelter industry, time to start streamlining. It’s time to get rid of all the costly fundraisers, administrators and lawyers as directors. They are not needed. What is needed are people with real animal handling skills – those like you find in rescue groups with experienced people!

    I wonder how many readers of this blog who rescue receive any salary at all for their work? There’s a young woman named Azure Davis who started a rescue group in Minnesota one year ago. She now has a very “professional” (as in quality, not expense) organization with lots of foster homes and they handle some real tough dogs. They’re taking in animals from all over the country. What salary did Azure get last year for her efforts? $0 – zero, nada, nothing. She not only did not receive a salary, but she had to work 3 jobs to pay for everything herself.

    Who the hell needs shelters with that kind of dedication and self-sacrifice that is available all over the country? All we need are a few leaders who know how to bring community rescuers together and tap into that incredible resource. Dump these bloated municipal and private shelters! At best, like Marin HS, they’re unimpressive sink holes for money. At worst, like Robeson in NC and Hempstead in NY, they’re subsidized torture chambers.

    Time for a change?

    1. Not to dispute your general point, which, WOW …

      It’s quite likely that the staff trainers are also conducting community obedience classes, which is both a service to the community and a revenue-generator for the shelter that more than covers their no-doubt modest salaries.

    2. While I haven’t done a thorough look into this shelter I did go to their website and checked out some of it. (And I do admit that I have never been in this shelter.) From what I have seen this shelter appears to be a well run shelter that has a lot of community programs – while granted they do charge a small fee for many of the programs – these are programs that I know some dog trainers would charge triple or more to do the same thing. If you have links that would provide a more thorough (and unbiased) look at what you are talking about I’d love to see them.

      While I believe that many shelters can do what they are doing at a much lower cost (some of these people do make a LOT of $$$ considering that we have a lot of people who do similar things with no pay) – I think that IF the shelter is doing a good job and actually placing animals instead of killing them then it becomes questionable as to how many paid staffers they need and the amount of pay should be based on the experience behind the person, in addition to the amount of responsibility that is placed on that person.

      I do “get” what you are saying and am not trying to make it sound like I am against your main point. It’s just that it appears this shelter has more going on than just taking in animals and killing them, which is what seems to be the norm in most shelters with similar funding.

    3. DrD writes: “Shelter industry, time to start streamlining. It’s time to get rid of all the costly fundraisers. . . . What is needed are people with real animal handling skills.”
      I disagree. Animals need the same caliber of highly skilled fundraising professional working on their behalf as do the Ivy League schools and medical centers and art museums. Inefficient fundraising conducted by well-meaning but untrained volunteers or non-specialist staff is a disservice to animals. Depending on what part of the country one is in and the level of competition, salaries for experienced development professionals can get higher–higher than the average NY vet salary. But these positions should be judged on what they accomplish–and how much of that goes towards helping animals. Paying someone a salary of $100K for bringing in $2 million is probably not a bad trade-off. More on how we might measure that in another post!

  3. I agree. People need to go to their city meetings and demand better of their shelter leaders and question costs when it is like this.

    Why is it that shelter leaders are being paid so much anyway when across the U.S. shelters are killing over 50% of the animals that enter their buildings? Paid well for what — not for going a good job saving lives.

  4. I went through link after link through every article that had links in them (to this blog entry). There is a lot of information that repeats the same thing over and over.

    Basically – this shelter seems to be rife with abuse/cruelty problems. An uncaring staff and – it appears that Ms. Murray is behind the shelter 100%. And what EXACTLY is a “town supervisor”? Does she oversee everything that takes place in this town? This has been going on far too long for them to keep saying they are “looking into” the allegations. They are talking the talk with all the programs and changes BUT I fail to see where they are walking the walk. This is where the old “talk is cheap” saying comes into play. Ms. Murray is quoted in one of the links as saying that “Many upgrades and enhancements have been initiated over the past several years, but we are looking ahead, armed with a progressive pet care agenda, to foster the best pet shelter experience possible for animals in the town’s care.” But if this has been taking place over the past several years, yet the issue with the volunteers being removed took place last October – it makes me wonder if this is another case of it’s on the paper but not being implemented. It’s a sad time to be an animal that ends up in a place like this. The more I hear about these shelters the less I like them as a whole. I agree that maybe rescues should be the way to go and we get rid of the old sheltering system IF this is what we have to look forward to. Especially when we have groups like HSUS, ASPCA, and their like pushing for stronger more restrictive laws “for” the animals BUT not a one touches on the care and condition that takes place behind the walls of our sheltering system.

    Everything they “want” to do appears like wonderful ideas – but are they actually doing anything to implement these changes? Because I see a failure to do so after being notified that the changes are so desparately needed! I noted that the ‘acting’ director and the adoption coordinator have been transferred from their job pending the outcome…but really how long does it take to look into this stuff? And what happened to the person that drown the puppy in bleach? There is no mention of what has happened to those who were fingered as being abusive towards the animals and those who basically sat back and allowed these animals to sit in their own filth and not get proper vet care. Have those staffers been moved from their positions – or are they still in place to continue their poor behavior?

    1. The Shelter director who was shown in the infamous Hempstead Shelrer “Kill The Kitty” video was moved to another town job.
      The other shelter workers are still there.
      Please visit Hope For Hempstead shelter on facebook or check out the website for the updated truth about the continuing patronage jobs and killing at the Hempstead shelter.They just added another 900,000 to the budget
      Sharon Hubbard
      Pet Columnist

  5. I could do 10 times more with half as much money. Damn.

    Speaking of money… I started a chip in for a puppy I rescued. His medical bills were a lot more than I had bargained for. He is a bottle puppy whose mother not only abandoned him at one week old but left him with a hole in his skull to remind him of her. He is now almost 5 weeks old but he contracted bacterial meningitis and although we almost lost him he is a fighter and is doing well.

    I will post more about him on my blog, which is rarely updated, and then in about 3 weeks him and his brother and sister will be available for adoption!

    1. Call your local newspapers and ask which news editor has a dog. Seriously. Do it with every TV station in your area. Then web pages and FB pages. Care for the puppy and let the media help you pay for it. Keep every receipt. Blogs are very limited – you need 5pm news . Puppy’s are always a good story. You might want to work with a GOOD local rescue. Good luck !

  6. You’re right there is not A vet on staff THERE ARE TWO ANDA VET TECH! and they treat the animals amazing! I just started working there and it’s incredible

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