HEMPSTEAD - Three animal rescue volunteers who were barred from a Town of Hempstead animal shelter after accusing the town of animal abuse say they feel vindicated now that the town has decided to settle with them.

Diane Madden, Lucille DeFina and another volunteer filed a lawsuit against the Town of Hempstead animal shelter because they say they saw animals being abused. They also alleged the facility's finances were being mismanaged.

The three volunteers were banned from the shelter, pending an ongoing criminal investigation by the town. After a two-year battle, the town decided that instead of going to trial, it would settle with the volunteers for $150,000.

The win is bittersweet, however, because Madden and DeFina say there is more work to be done to improve the shelter for the animals it cares for. Their lawsuit prompted an audit, and the Town of Hempstead reduced the shelter's budget from $7 million to $4 million. Two full-time veterinarians were also hired.

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