Officials from Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary have turned down an offer from the newly-formed Delaware No Kill Alliance to move into the Georgetown shelter and take over operations.
Stephen Hampton, an attorney based in Dover, submitted a letter Sept. 10 to the Safe Haven board of directors stating, “Reports in the media and from individuals having contact with Safe Haven have revealed that financial difficulties are causing Safe Haven to inadequately provide for the animals in its care.”
The letter accuses Safe Haven officials of being in violation of several state laws, including those pertaining to shelter care and treatment, record keeping and reporting, vaccinations and specifications for the humane handling, care and treatment of dogs.
The group offers the services of experienced shelter staff and a licensed Delaware veterinarian.
“[Delaware No Kill’s] goal is to move its experienced team into the Safe Haven facility and continue to operate it as a no-kill shelter as long as necessary to protect the dogs housed there,” states a news release accompanying the attorney’s letter. “It is imperative that something is done quickly, because there is a crisis with regard to Safe Haven’s ability to adequately care for the animals in its control and Safe Haven does not have the resources to live up to its commitments.”
Dave Hughes, president of the Safe Haven board of directors, said Monday that the board will not step down unless the shelter is forced to close its doors.
“If we end up losing all of our funding and we don’t stay open, we’ve given [Delaware No Kill] the option to come in here and pay all the bills on the building, including the mortgage, and they can use it to move the dogs out,” Hughes said. “But if we do stay open, we’re not going to deal with [Delaware No Kill] at all.”
Safe Haven will lose its main source of income, an $868,000 dog control contract with Kent County Levy Court, on Oct. 1.
Delaware No Kill was formed by Lisa St. Clair, owner of the natural dog food company Tail Bangers in Millsboro. St. Clair said she was volunteering for Safe Haven on Aug. 4 when she was asked by shelter officials to transport a sick dog from Delmarva Animal Emergency Center in Dover to Windcrest Animal Hospital in Wilmington. The dog, a boxer mix initially named Mr. Rodgers and later named Charlie, was suffering from canine parvovirus, which is treatable but requires intensive therapy and a quarantine period.
St. Clair says she was under the impression that she was transporting the dog to Windcrest Animal Hospital for treatment, however discharge papers from Delmarva Animal Emergency Center read, “Safe Haven requests euthanasia, handler of dog wants to save it $$$$$$.”
Page 2 of 2 - Safe Haven is a no-kill shelter. The organization’s website states, “In a true No-Kill shelter, no cats or dogs will be put down unless they have untreatable and unmanageable medical conditions that cause pain which cannot be controlled.”
Hughes said it was estimated the veterinarian bills for Mr. Rodgers could reach $6,000 depending on the length of treatment, which the financially troubled Safe Haven just can’t afford.
“We don’t have the money; we physically can’t pay the bill,” he said. “In the last month, we paid $18,000 in vet bills and we can’t pay a $6,000 bill for a single dog.”
St. Clair said Windcrest Animal Hospital did not know she was coming with Mr. Rodgers, and would not provide treatment without a guarantee of payment, which Safe Haven was not willing to provide. St. Clair had ownership of Mr. Rodgers transferred to herself and she covered the bill, which ended up being about $2,800.
St. Clair said Delaware No Kill’s plan was to move into Safe Haven for 90 days, covering all utilities and expenses and renting the building from the organization for $1 per month. She said the group would work to get the dogs healthy and adopted out while the Safe Haven group files for bankruptcy and prepares to shut the doors. However, St. Clair said, because Safe Haven is requiring Delaware No Kill to cover its almost $20,000 per month mortgage payment, they will not be able to help.
Hughes said Safe Haven is working to move its 105 dogs. He said seven dogs were adopted out last week, seven adoptions are pending for this week and six are about to be transferred to other no-kill facilities.