Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary’s no-kill philosophy was compromised last week when 19 dogs were reportedly euthanized at the Georgetown facility.

Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary’s no-kill philosophy was compromised last week when 19 dogs were reportedly euthanized at the Georgetown facility.

In statement labeled “final media communication,” Lynn Lofthouse, a member of Safe Haven’s board of directors, said Friday that some dogs, due to severe behavior issues, were such a threat to other animals or humans that they were unsuitable for adoption.

“These dogs were humanely euthanized,” Lofthouse said. “We are grateful for all of the lives that were saved and the support that we have received during this difficult time.”

Even though officials at Safe Haven told the public they would be adopting out dogs through the end of the month, the doors of the shelter are now locked and all the kennels are empty.

Without notice, workers from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which took over day-to-day operations at the shelter last month, loaded 22 dogs that were not euthanized into several vehicles on Nov. 14 and transported them to “shelters and rescue groups throughout Delaware, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire and New Jersey where they can be housed, cared for and eventually made available for adoption,” reads a statement from the ASPCA.

Several local animal advocates traveled to Safe Haven on Thursday after they say Safe Haven officials told them they could adopt the remaining dogs. However these people were turned away by the ASPCA, who eventually called the Delaware State Police and reported the animal advocates were trespassing on private property.

Capt. Sean Moriarty of DSP Troop 4 in Georgetown initially discounted speculations surrounding whether the dogs were being euthanized. Moriarty said he saw dogs inside a large ASPCA truck and they were all alive.

“The police are here to make sure everybody is safe and everybody is okay,” Moriarty said while on the scene at Safe Haven on Thursday. “Obviously we don’t have any control over where [the dogs] are going or what the policies are. We’re just here to make sure everybody is safe.”

Jamie Werner, a former Safe Haven employee, said he went to the shelter to adopt a dog he’d bonded with while working there.

“All I know is they told everybody to come save the dogs,” Werner said. “I came to save a dog and now I’m being told they’d rather kill it.”

Tacia McIlvaine, of Seaford, also went to the shelter after she was reportedly told by a Safe Haven official that she could adopt two of the remaining dogs. Like the others, she was turned away by the ASPCA.

“The ASPCA told the police the dogs I was here to get were not in the building, and they had already been placed on transport,” McIlvaine said. “I just don’t know what to say. We wanted to get these dogs out of here. There have been people here to adopt the dogs and they won’t let anybody do it.”

Earlier this month, Lofthouse told the Sussex Countian the shelter would be open and the dogs would be available for adoption until Nov. 30. It is unclear at this time as to why the dogs were removed and the shelter closed more than half a month ahead of schedule, when ASPCA officials said at the end of October they would run the facility through Nov. 30.

“The ASPCA has been given a Dec. 1 final closure date by Safe Haven’s board of directors and we’re hoping to have all animals out by that time,” said ASPCA spokeswoman Anita Edson in an Oct. 28 statement sent to the Sussex Countian. “The ASPCA and Safe Haven board will be doing everything possible to place remaining dogs before then.”

ASPCA officials say Safe Haven was responsible for the “ultimate outcome” of each animal. Lofthouse has not responded to numerous phone calls requesting information on the early closure.

Emily Schneider, a spokeswoman for the ASPCA, said Safe Haven was intended to act as a no-kill facility for Sussex County animals, but a lack of funds, as well as debt to vendors and a substantial mortgage, has resulted in its decision to close.

“The ASPCA agreed to assist Safe Haven after it made this decision,” Schneider said. “Without immediate help from the ASPCA these dogs could have suffered tremendously.”

When the ASPCA arrived at Safe Haven on Oct. 16, officials say there were 105 dogs housed at the shelter. Between then and Thursday, ASPCA officials say the organization assisted in placing 86 dogs, which includes adoptions and relocation to other shelters and rescue groups. The ASPCA conducted behavior evaluations of the dogs to help Safe Haven determine their placement options.

Local animal advocates have dubbed the euthanized dogs “The Safe Haven 19” and many claim the shelter’s actions were illegal. However state officials say Safe Haven did not break any laws.

Emily Knearl, section chief for the Office of Animal Welfare in the Delaware Division of Public Health, said her department believes that “the requirements for the administration of euthanasia were met by Safe Haven due to the attempted outreach for placement and the evaluation that dogs were a danger to people or other animals.”

Knearl said the situation that unfolded at Safe Haven over the last several months was brought on by failures of the dog control system and a lack in shelter oversight. Knearl said the Office of Animal Welfare, which has been operating for less than two weeks, was recently created to improve the dog control and shelter system and will work to do so. She added the office supported Safe Haven in its efforts to place the remaining dogs and the department thanks the ASPCA for providing animal care support and adoption coordination.