Hempstead Town Names New Animal Shelter Assistant Director

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Rescue Community Speaks Out in Support of New Hire

While it’s no secret that the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter’s practices have been the subject of controversy among members of the local animal rescue community, it appears a new chapter in the saga has officially begun. At the Hempstead Town Board meeting on Tuesday, July 12, Town Supervisor Kate Murray announced the hiring of Cynthia Iacopella as the new assistant director for the Shelter.

After an extensive nationwide search conducted by the town, Murray told audience members that Iacopella was chosen from well over 80 candidates who applied for the position. The Town’s Search Committee was comprised of Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby and town administrators, and was aided by Last Hope Animal Rescue and the Shelter Services Committee for the Humane Society of the United States.

Iacopella is expected to serve as the Hempstead Town Animal Shelter’s (TOHAS) assistant director while she completes the final three credits required for her bachelor’s degree in physical anthropology from the University of California-Santa Barbara. Once Iacopella attains her bachelor’s degree, a requirement for the position, Murray said it is the town’s intention to appoint her as director for the shelter.

The new hire has more than 10 years of management experience at nonprofit animal shelters, where she trained staff members and successfully developed and implemented new policies. “She is certainly well respected by her peers. We received a number of recommendations on her behalf, and among those recommendations was an endorsement from Jane Hoffman [the president and chair of the board of directors of the Mayor’s Alliance for New York City Animals],” Murray said.

Councilwoman Goosby commented on how proud she was that the Committee made “the right choice” in their quest to find a new point person for the Shelter. After speaking with many candidates in the interview process, Goosby said Ms. Iacopella’s “compassion and dedication to the humane treatment of animals,” stood out.

“I am pleased with the Committee’s selection and I am excited to begin working with Ms. Iacopella moving forward,” Goosby said.

After passing the town’s administrative calendar items, Murray stated that the air-conditioning bid was accepted for TOHAS and will be installed in the near future. Murray also announced that the Department of Environmental Conservation gave the town a permit to build a walking trail on the grounds of the Shelter.

Over the course of the past few months, animal activists have attended countless Town Board meetings, pleading for board members to hire a new director for the Shelter. Former TOHAS volunteer Diane Madden spoke out in praise of Hempstead Town’s recent action. “I am glad to hear that you have chosen a new director of TOHAS,” she said.

Madden emphasized that there are many problems to be solved and said hopes the new director will be given the authority needed to implement shelter reform. “Today is a day for moving ahead and looking forward to a new animal shelter that preserves life and seeks to comfort our homeless pets,” she said.

“On a wing and a prayer, I humble myself and thank you for the choice you considered to be the best, hoping that the unfortunate circumstances that have taken place since last October have finally turned around to be a great fortune for our animals and they will prosper more than they I have ever dreamed,” Madden added.

Madden is currently involved in a lawsuit with two other former volunteers against the town and was banned from the shelter in October 2010, along with Lucille DeFina and Frances Lucivero-Pelletier. The three former volunteers filed a lawsuit on Dec. 8, 2010 against the Town of Hempstead, Murray and seven other employees.

Anton Newspapers previously reported that Madden stated the ban came from what they say is retaliation for speaking out to shelter employees and town officials about alleged abuse and neglect of the animals housed at the shelter.

Fighting back tears, DeFina told Murray and board members that she was thrilled by the news. “I hope it turns out to be everything that we hoped for. This has been very tough,” she said.

DeFina stressed the importance of keeping the facility a low-kill shelter and asked if the town would keep that policy going forward. Murray said nothing has changed in that regard, but would not comment on the specifics of the issue.

 “I think we are all on that same page. With Ms. Iacopella taking the reins of the shelter…we can go further and go higher and that’s always our goal. I know that is your goal as well,” Murray said.

 “We’re turning the page, we’re moving forward and you know, we certainly want to have the best relationship that we possibly can, not only with our residents, but with the rescue community as well.”

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