Volunteers at the Westchester Shore Humane Society in Harrison have filed a lawsuit accusing the animal shelter's directors of mistreating animals and using the non-profit facility to line their own pockets.
The humane society's board president Nina Ryan, her husband John Ryan who serves as board secretary, and vice president Marcia Halley are listed in the complaint (attached to this article). The volunteers and at large citizens accuse the Ryans of keeping the animals in "deplorable" conditions, refusing to follow the non-profit's bylaws and renting space on the facility for personal gain.
Many of the volunteers say they first gained access to the shelter in January 2012 after the Ryans ended the employment of a full-time caretaker who lived on site at 7 Harrison Avenue. Volunteers say they discovered neglected animals that had been kept in moldy indoor and outdoor cages with floors covered in urine and feces. The suit also alleges there were records of hundreds of euthanized animals, despite a claim that the facility is a "no-kill" shelter.
Halley is referenced scarcely in the complaint, and is described as an "absentee" member of the three-person board. She is a neighbor of the Ryans in Port Chester and the complaint alleges she was added so the Ryans would have complete control of the shelter.
In order to profit from the shelter, the complaint alleges the Ryans boarded animals from private pet owners and pocketed the proceeds. These animals were kept in a separate cage, away from other animals on the facility, and fed with donated food, the complaint said. After firing the on-site manager, the Ryans began to rent his living area on the facility and keeping the money, despite it being condemned by the Harrison Building Department earlier this year, said the complaint.
The Ryans also had plans to ultimately sell the property, which they do not own, to fund their retirement, alleges the complaint.
"The Ryan's have completely arrested the regular business of the society and use it not for its intended purpose, but for personal gain at the expense and well-being of the animals in the shelter's care," said the complaint.
The lawsuit, filed on April 24, is asking the New York State Supreme Court to remove the Ryans and Halley as directors and order the Ryans to refund at least $150,000 in damages accrued over the years.
The site has also been operating without a license since January 1, said Caren Halbfinger, a spokesperson at the Westchester County Department of Health.
But Halbfinger said her department found no evidence of neglect or mistreatment during an inspection of the facility following a complaint last week. The department found the animals were being kept in "healthy and clean conditions", she said. Halbfinger also said the county health department has made annual visits to the site in the past and that she doesn't recall any major problems.
Halbfinger said the Ryans are currently in the process of applying to renew thier permit, and that the delay is related to missing paperwork.
Nina and John Ryan were not at the facility Monday morning. A volunteer at the facility's front desk said she wouldn't comment at this time. A call an attorney representing the plaintiffs was not immediately returned.
A call and e-mail to John Ryan's office seeking comment were also not returned.
The Westchester Shore Humane Society has contracts with several municipalities in Westchester County including Pelham, the Town of Mamaroneck, Village of Port Chester and City of White Plains, the complaint said. It is a non-profit organization located next to the Harrison-Mamaroneck border that houses lost, abused or abandoned animals in an effort to prevent animal cruelty.
After becoming directors of the facility in the late '90s, the complaint alleges the Ryans took control of the board by refusing to allow for elections and by not holding regular meetings with contributors and volunteers at the facility. The complaint cited bylaws requiring an annual meeting every March that the Ryans have allegedly ignored.
There have also been issues at the site on the past, alleges the suit. In 2009, the complaint says the SPCA removed 12 dogs and several cats from the facility because of poor conditions.
Non-profit animal shelters such as Westchester Shore are also required to make efforts to have pets adopted by outside families. The suit alleges several occasions when the Ryans refused to allow an animal to be adopted, including one when a dog was given to a Ryan family member without paperwork despite efforts from its original owner, who claims it was lost, to get it back.
According to the complaint there were approximately 20 dogs and 50 cats at the facility that were suitable for adoption when the suit was filed.