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Search Warrant Gathers Files, Documents, Records; Raid Leaves Shelter Without Computers
By Tina Traster
The Rockland County District Attorney’s Office executed a search warrant Wednesday at the Hi Tor Animal Care Center in Pomona.
Insiders said the DA’s office has taken computers and document files, but did not investigate the state of the animals. There are currently more than 250 animals on site.
Hi Tor’s Executive Director Michael Salmond resigned a few days before the raid.
One source said “Hi Tor is not concerned about anything. We are audited every year. We have not done anything wrong,”
The warrant said the DA’s office is investigating “any and all records of Hi Tor, files, documents, agreements, contracts, financial records, employees’ records, bank documents, account statements, checks, tax docs, tax forms, 1099s, 501c3, notes, correspondence.”
“We are cooperating with the DA and will continue to do so,” said Hi Tor Board President Debbie DiBernardo.
DiBernardo said that the shelter is now operating without access to any files on its animals, including the animals’ medical records.
Insiders say the raid was unexpected though they believe it may be linked to an effort underway to have Rockland Green assume responsibility of the shelter.
Hi Tor has long been plagued by difficulties, given that it’s been operating out of an outdated 1972 facility for almost 50 years and attempts to get the shelter rebuilt have lagged for nearly a decade. Now, with funding secured and plans designed, the long-awaited $8 million shelter is set to break ground this fall on the same county-owned site.
Hi Tor is a private nonprofit that has been funded in part by donations but also relies on contributions by the county via town contracts.
In February 2021, the Town of Orangetown terminated its agreement with the county’s only no-kill animal shelter though it agreed to pay nearly $40,000 for its 2020 contract. Dissatisfied with Hi Tor, the town has signed an agreement with the Hudson Valley Humane Society to handle its stray dogs, but not cats or any other animal.
“Until Orangetown’s termination of their contract, this was a project supported by all five of Rockland’s towns through New York State’s Shared Services Initiative which would have provided potential reimbursement for some cost to each entity involved,” County Executive Ed Day said at the time.
But Haverstraw Supervisor Howard Phillips, who is Board Chairman of the Rockland County Solid Waste Management Authority, now known as Rockland Green, has said the authority has taken steps to bring Hi Tor under its control. Rockland Green has proposed a resolution proposing a local law to “expand the Authority’s purposes, power and responsibilities to include animal management services, including providing services and operating facilities to protect and promote animal care and to protect public health and safety, including those in connection with the processing and disposal of animal waste; the disposal of dead wildlife removed from roadways following wildlife-vehicle collisions; the sheltering of stray, lost, abandoned or surrendered animals; providing animal control; and any other similar services.”
The County legislature has received a copy of the resolution from Rockland Green but it has not moved into a committee for a discussion or a vote,” said a legislature spokesman.
“We’re working with all the supervisors, including Orangetown, to find a long-term solution,” Phillips has said. “That solution may involve Rockland Green.”
In response to the DA’s search, County Executive Ed Day said, “As all are aware, Hi Tor Animal Care Center is a contracted agency and not part of Rockland County government. The organization performs vital services of animal shelter and care in Rockland County and is monitored by the Rockland County Department of Health. Both Hi-Tor management and County government have shared a number of concerns about operations at the shelter and we welcome, support and will cooperate fully with our District Attorney in ensuring whatever concerns are effectively addressed.”