The Kent County Levy Court voted 5-2 Tuesday night to cancel its over $868,000 dog control contract with the Georgetown-based Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary.
The shelter is in financial dire straights due to the medical expenses necessary to uphold its "no kill" mission, according to representatives.
Prior to making a motion to cancel the contract, Commissioner Eric Buckson told Safe Haven representatives he thinks the problem is their business model.
"It doesn't work; it's not going to work," said Buckson, who was adamant that he supports Safe Haven's mission and has even agreed to foster one of its dogs. "The numbers don't lie. You have to acknowledge it's not going to add up. You can't plan a budget around what you hope will come in."
According to Dave Hughes, a long-time volunteer and husband of board member Rita Hughes, there are currently about 170 dogs in the shelter's care, most of them pit bulls and almost all of them were picked up by dog control in Kent County.
After the vote, Hughes, who presented a financial report to the Levy Court, said the dog control contract was Safe Haven's primary source of funding.
"Without that, we can't maintain the facility to keep the animals there, unless some patrons come out in our favor and really start donating," Hughes said.
Lois Fargo, the new president of the Safe Haven board since Rich Kirchoff's recent resignation, said she's not sure what will happen next.
"This was kind of a surprise tonight, so we're going to get together and find out what our next step is," Fargo said after the vote. "We're kind of saddened by this decision; but they have the ability to make that decision and we respect that."
Safe Haven will receive 60 days notice in writing regarding the cancellation.
County Administrator Michael Petit de Mange said he will begin negotiations with the Kent County Society for the Prevention of Animals regarding a new dog control contract. Petit de Mange said he expects Safe Haven will continue to carry out its contract until the date of termination and he expects the shelter, the SPCA and the county will work together for a smooth transition.
Hughes also said after the meeting that Safe Haven's 86 cats are gone, as the shelter's former interim director Cindy Woods moved them all to a new location on Saturday night without notifying the board. Hughes said Woods also fired seven employees Saturday night under the assumption they would all receive unemployment. Hughes said she quit the next day and some of the fired employees have returned to work. A new interim director has been appointed.