Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary set to close...or, maybe not

In a statement contradicting their Web site and social media post earlier this week that said they would tentatively close Aug. 30 of this year, Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary has now said that after board and operations restructuring they will “have a future” and are “deferring closure and will continue to operate and to perform duties under the dog control contract with Kent County.”

Safe Haven is a 19,500-square-foot no-kill animal sanctuary on 13 acres in Georgetown.

They stated that they reduced staff last week to reduce costs and pleaded with the community for donations and volunteers.

“Donations of food and litter are essential. We must have help with facility and grounds maintenance. Volunteers are badly needed, due to the reduced staff, to help in many capacities; we can use wide ranging skills,” they stated in a release.

They explained that their animal control contract has proved to be a challenging one.

“Blending ‘no-kill’ with an animal control contact is an unusual and challenging combination of operations,” a press release this week stated. “Most shelters with dog control contracts are ‘high’ kill shelters. Safe Haven has chosen to take a more difficult road by giving animals a chance for a new home and a good life. Euthanasia of any healthy animal is not an option. Second chances, however, are not without cost.”

Online reactions to the announcement of a “tentative closing” and then the statement that they “have a future and are deferring closure” were a mixed bag and ran the gamut from “Hang in there Safe Haven, we know it’s hard!! We appreciate all you do!” to “Close already” and “I’m a huge supporter and have been asking for help for Safe Haven but you are ruining your credibility by announcing your [sic] closing one day and staying open the next. People are skeptical about helping now despite their love of the animals. It’s truly sad [in my opinion].”

Safe Haven has not been without controversy in the past. In the Spring of 2010, animal lovers from across Sussex County met with concerns about Safe Haven and left with a plan to cooperatively work together.

Many of the groups’ complaints have stemmed from a frustration with the fundraising and “political” backing they said Safe Haven has received. At the time of the meeting, Safe Haven’s “green” building was not yet under construction, even though they formed in 2004 and had been actively fundraising. Some members of the other groups particularly cited Safe Haven’s lack of actual assistance to animals up until that time.

“What are they doing?” was a recurring question offered by many of the people who spoke on May 21, 2010.

“In truth, we welcome another shelter in Delaware,” said Kate Hungerford, a volunteer with the Delaware SPCA in Georgetown. “They could have built those buildings, saved those animals and then gone green. They had perfectly good plans in 2007.”

Others of those attending the 2010 meeting questioned the salary and other financial information regarding Safe Haven former Executive Director Anne Gryczon, and questioned whether they actually provided some of the services they listed, such as a food bank.

Many people added that Safe Haven representatives were invited to the meeting and that they were disappointed that they did not show.

Gryzcon had said Safe Haven had never agreed to the meeting and she noted through a press release that the process of building an animal sanctuary is a “long and arduous one” and, “We have been working toward the goal of building a no-kill sanctuary in Sussex County since we were formed in 2004... multi-million-dollar facilities such as ours do not fall out of the sky.”

The shelter was finished in the winter of 2012 and Gryzcon was replaced earlier this year. Her position has been held by interim executive director Cindy Woods.

This week, they said that the-socialization and medical care of the animals picked up by their contract have contributed to costs outside their contract and they stressed the community support is essential.

“Under our dog control contract, Safe Haven has adopted out over 400 dogs and cats who would have almost certainly been euthanized under the previous contractors. For Safe Haven to continue to protect, rehabilitate, medicate, socialize, and re-home animals we must have community support.”

They stated that they have over 170 dogs and 86 cats looking for “forever homes.”

Calls to Safe Haven volunteers and board members were not returned by Coastal Point press time.