Today’s news:

Supporters slam closing of Flushing stray shelter

After more than 40 years, Flushing’s Animal Haven closed its doors Sunday, a move the nonprofit said was essential for its continued survival, but several former volunteers contend was the result of gross mismanagement and the abandonment of the group’s mission.

Animal Haven opened its doors in 1967 and has operated as one of the borough’s most successful and best known animal shelters for the last four decades. The group made a name for itself as a no−kill shelter that would medically care for and house abandoned and stray dogs and cats at either its 35−22 Prince St. location or upstate sanctuary while they found an adopting family for them.

But the nonprofit, which recently dismissed its executive director amid growing debt, was forced to close its upstate sanctuary in December and on Sunday shuttered the Flushing center to operate full time out of a singular location in SoHo in Manhattan and a mobile adoption van.

“Animal Haven is sizing its operations to a more manageable level as we feel this is the cautiously optimistic and responsible way to handle ourselves given the fund−raising outlook for the foreseeable future,” said Tiffany Lacey, the interim executive director.

But the closure has not sat well with many longtime volunteers and supporters, however, who have called the decision misguided and said the consolidation has led to the euthanization of several dogs and cats that were not adopted in time and the organization no longer has the space to care for.

“When they were closing the Animal Haven shelter, they weren’t even trying to adopt the animals,” said Marsha DiPietro, who has volunteered with the group for 12 years. “They’re heartless people.”

Animal Haven maintains that the decision was the most prudent course of action to keep the organization alive and said it does not euthanize animals unless absolutely necessary.

Martha Waltien, who has volunteered for the group for the last five years, said she has never known the group to consider euthanizing animals because of a money situation.

“The loss of the shelter in Flushing is incalculable. Animal Haven was always a beacon of hope, a role model and inspiration,” Waltien said. “Their motto has always been ‘For a lifetime of care.’ Animals are only admitted if they are deemed adoptable. Once animals were admitted, they were never ever, ever euthanized. It goes against everything they stood for.”

Gertrude Barron, who owns the Worthy Paws shop in Bayside and was the legal representative of Animal Haven when it started 40 years ago, said the loss of the Flushing Center creates a big hole to fill in Queens.

“I think it’s a tragedy because there is no no−kill shelter in Queens anymore. Animal Haven served a purpose, a very good purpose. Now none of this is available — if there’s a stray dog or cat in Queens, too bad,” Barron said. “Animal Haven is a Queens organization, but they said they need to transfer the building to Manhattan to stay alive. That’s not going to bring back the animals that have been put down.”

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 138.

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