The financially exhausted Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary in Georgetown has reduced its staff in an attempt to keep the shelter up and running.
“After restructuring the board and operations, Safe Haven is deferring closure and will continue to operate and to perform duties under the dog control contract with Kent County,” reads a statement released Tuesday by Safe Haven’s board of directors. “On Friday, staff was reduced to save costs.”
Board member Sharon Donovan said six or seven office staffers were laid off.
“We think it will help,” she said. “We’re going to try to do the best we can to stay open.”
However despite the layoffs on Friday, which has been confirmed as the driving force keeping Safe Haven afloat, the organization announced an Aug. 30 tentative closing date Sunday on its website and Facebook page.
“The final closure date is dependent upon when we are able to find adoptive homes or other suitable shelters to transfer our animals to,” the website states. “We are very grateful to the Best Friends Animal Society No More Homeless Pets Network for their assistance in helping us to locate to other shelters.”
Safe Haven has temporarily waived adoption fees for the more than 170 dogs and more than 80 cats currently living in the shelter. The organization is still desperately seeking permanent homes for these animals, as well as donations of money and supplies.
“Support from the public is now more important than ever if Safe Haven is to protect and re-home animals in their care, which is often the last hope these animals have for safety,” reads the board’s statement.
The shelter is pointing to its strict “no kill” policy as the impetus for its financial woes.
“Safe Haven has chosen to take a more difficult road by giving animals a chance for a new home and a good life,” the statement reads. “Euthanasia of any healthy animal is not an option. Second chances, however, are not without cost.”
According to the statement, Safe Haven has, under its dog contract with Kent County, adopted out more than 400 dogs and cats “who would have almost certainly been euthanized by the previous contractor.”
That previous contractor is the Kent County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty Animals, which holds the dog control contract for Sussex County and stood to re-absorb the Kent County contract if Safe Haven closed its doors.
Kent County Administrator Michael Petit de Mange said he was informed Saturday afternoon by Safe Haven Board President Rick Kirchhoff that the facility would more than likely be closing its doors in late August, therefore the county began looking for alternative dog control providers. Petit de Mange confirmed the Kent County SPCA would be on the list of options.
Page 2 of 2 - “There are not a whole lot of options to choose from in this arena,” Petit de Mange said. “Not a lot of people are in this business. One option may be to try to do dog control ourselves or we can try to partner with someone else. I’m certain that KSPCA is a very viable option.”
Petit de Mange said he’d planned to meet with all of the Levy Court commissioners to gather input and ensure everyone was on the same page. Whether or not that meeting is still happening has not been confirmed.
Roughly one month ago, Safe Haven officials squashed closure rumors but confirmed the shelter was experiencing financial difficulties. Since then, the shelter has been running low-cost adoption specials and several local fundraisers have been organized.
Karli Swope, a part-time employee at Safe Haven for the past three years, said the organization has “been in the hole” for quite some time.
“The dogs just kept coming in and not enough fundraising was being done to offset the costs,” Swope said. “As the dogs kept coming in, they had to be moved to boarding houses. The boarding costs were added to the vet and supply costs and it all became too much.”
Swope said 75 to 80 percent of Safe Haven’s dogs are pit bulls, which are difficult to adopt out due to their reputation as an aggressive breed.
Dover Post Reporter Sarah Barban contributed to this article.