Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary closing

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Less than a year-and-a-half after opening, Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary in Georgetown is closing its doors for good. 

Safe Haven’s board of directors says it will close the no-kill shelter Dec. 1, 2013 because it’s out of money.

“We’re very sad,” said Beth West, Safe Haven’s board president, a title she’s held for only a month. “It was very sad to let the employees go because they were so dedicated to what they were doing.”

In an announcement posted on the shelter’s Facebook page Tuesday, the board thanked those who have contributed in any way to the shelter and says representatives from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are on site caring for the remaining dogs until permanent homes can be found for them; fostering is not an option.

Safe Haven estimates it has about 85 dogs that need to be adopted. The shelter says it will open every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and ASPCA staff will help with adoptions. West says any dogs remaining after Nov. 30, will be transferred. 

The shelter is located at 19022 Shingle Point Road in Georgetown. 

Bumpy road

Safe Haven’s financial struggles have been well-documented since the summer. Mismanagement linked to the shelter’s inability to balance its no-kill philosophy with its animal control duties landed Safe Haven hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. Ultimately, the shelter lost its animal control contract with Kent County. 

“A lot of the donations dried up with all the bad publicity that we got, and we had so many dogs in here it was unbelievable,” said West. “It’s just been a whole series of factors that have ultimately led to this, but it’s just not feasible to continue.”

The bad press West speaks of centered around the care the shelter was giving its animals and whether Safe Haven was really honoring its no-kill philosophy.

“I knew this was coming. The business model was a failure,” said Kevin Usilton, the executive director of First State Animal Center and SPCA, formerly the Kent County SPCA. “The millions of dollars spent on this shelter could have saved thousands of animals.”

First State Animal Center and SPCA took over Safe Haven’s animal control contract and now handles animal control statewide. Usilton’s organization is not no-kill. 

“Delaware is not a great place to be an animal. Our laws hurt animal welfare,” Usilton said. “I think it is time for real conversations about animal welfare in our state. Political insight needs to be removed and the real work needs to be discussed by those performing those functions.”

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