Safe Haven holds ‘ground-digging’ for green, no-kill shelter

After four long years of fundraising, planning and gathering permits, the Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary of Sussex County broke ground on Friday, June 13. A novel approach to a groundbreaking was held at the future site for the facility east of Georgetown. Dogs participated in a “dig” for treats on the future foundation of the 19,500-square-foot no-kill sanctuary.
U.S. Senator Tom Carper sits in a back hoe with Maya. Below, Lynn Rogers, Tom Carper, Anne Gryczon, Pete Schwartzkopf and Hal DuU.S. Senator Tom Carper sits in a back hoe with Maya. Below, Lynn Rogers, Tom Carper, Anne Gryczon, Pete Schwartzkopf and Hal Du

Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary of Sussex County is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing a safe, caring environment for homeless, neglected, abused and orphaned cats and dogs in Sussex County.

In addition to thinking about the animals in building the sanctuary, the largely volunteer-led organization wanted to incorporate many aspects of green building, such as geothermal and solar hot water, according to Executive Director Anne Gryczon.

“The green aspect was always there. And then we thought, why not do it full-force?” said Gryczon. “In building it, we didn’t want to add anything extra to the environment.”

Organizers of the sanctuary met up with David Quillen, a Berlin, Md., architect, who agreed to see their green and animal-friendly vision forward. The sanctuary will be the first (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified building in Sussex County and the first “green” animal shelter in the Mid-Atlantic region – only the second such shelter on the East Coast.

Speakers at the groundbreaking on June 13 included U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, (D-Del.); Safe Haven Board President Hal Dukes; Kate Rohrer, Sussex director for U.S. Rep. Mike Castle; state Rep. Pete Scwartzkopf (R-Rehoboth Beach); and Sussex County Council Vice-President Lynn Rogers.

Carper thanked everyone involved for all of their ideas and hard work, and jokingly thanked “whoever set up the tent and brought the water,” as the hot sun shined down on the groundbreaking.

Carper praised the building’s main purpose and also the fact that it will be an environmentally friendly LEED-certified ‘green” building.

“For those who helped to provide a safe haven, a sanctuary for animals who deserve to be saved, hats off to you,” he said. “Not only is it friendly to animals, but you’ll be taking care if the planet. And that’s a win-win. We always look for a win-win, and they don’t come along every day. Good work, God bless, and thanks!”

Quillen shared similar sentiments, and added that green building and the care of animals go hand in hand.

“Green building is partly about consuming fewer resources,” he said, “but it is also about working with the environment, rather than against it, to create a vibrant and comfortable space. People (and animals) feel better in buildings that connect them to their environment through natural light, natural ventilation and natural materials. Treating animals with respect and treating the environment with respect stem from the same attitude.”

Some of the green features that Save Haven Animal Sanctuary will have are solar hot water heating; geo-thermal HVAC systems; a green roof that will absorbs rainwater with vegetation and converts pollutants into bio-mass; a weather-moderating courtyard, long narrow buildings for increased ventilation and natural light; an east-west orientation for solar gain in winter and less energy use overall; concrete slab floors for solar gain and temperature control; recycled metal exterior and roof; recycled wheat-straw insulation; pervious, recycled concrete roadways, to allow rain to penetrate; downsized equipment due to a tightly insulated shell (about half of standard systems); re-forested areas to the northeast and northwest, to block the cold and storm winds; and the south area of the building to be maintained as meadowland, which will get mowed once a year, to allow southwest breezes.
Lynn Rogers, Sen. Tom Carper, Anne Gryczon, Pete Schwartzkopf and Hal Dukes at the groundbreaking event.Lynn Rogers, Sen. Tom Carper, Anne Gryczon, Pete Schwartzkopf and Hal Dukes at the groundbreaking event.

Dukes thanked Schwartzkopf for standing by them and acting as a mentor, and thanked Melvin Joseph Construction, the contractors on the project.

“They’ve been terrific,” he said. “We can’t thank them enough for all of their help and generous donations,” he added.

Schwartzkopf said the arrival of a no-kill shelter was a long time coming for the state and remarked that the sanctuary, combined with spay and neuter legislation, will be great for the state.

“And if I am still in Dover, we’re going to send a message and make our state a no-kill state,” he said to a round of applause.

Rogers thanked Gryczon for getting the county involved and added that his love for animals made it easy for him to want to be a part of it.

“I love animals — more than any of you here. I’ve got beagles, Labradors, rabbits, horses. It’s going to be a great, great unique facility. Welcome to Sussex County — we’re here for you!”

Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary started as “a group of ladies who got together and saw no alternative and thought Sussex County needed a no-kill shelter,” according to Gryczon.

Until a handful of years ago, animal control for the county was done through the Delaware SPCA in Georgetown. It is now done through Kent County, which Gryczon pointed out means that animals are still put down — they are just moved to Kent County first. That is something Safe Haven wishes to stop altogether, with the goal of making Delaware a no-kill state.

In addition to building Safe Haven, the group also provides small grants to local rescue groups. Initially, the shelter will be able to house dogs and cats, and once they get situated, they have hopes to accommodate wildlife rehabilitation and horses.

The shelter is modeled on the largest and most successful sanctuary in the United States, Best Friends of Utah.

The Save Haven facility is set on 13 acres off of Shingle Line Road in Georgetown and will house roughly 2,000 animals per year, 300 to 400 at a time. They also plan to offer to low/no-cost spay and neuter programs for thousands of pets owned by low-income residents, as well as for feral/barn cats; along with humane education programming. Safe Haven also plans to provide assistance for low-income and senior citizens to help with care of their animals — all moving toward the goal of making Delaware a no-kill state.

For more information on the Safe Heaven Animal Sanctuary of Sussex County, visit online.