The owners of two Sussex County kennels say they're taking legal action against Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary and possibly against the Kent County Levy Court for tens of thousands of dollars owed for housing dogs.
Todd Clyde, owner of Delmarva Pet Resort in Selbyville, returned 39 pit bulls to Safe Haven over the course of the last six days. Clyde says the shelter, which he's been working with for about four years, owes him more than $60,000. He said Safe Haven has not made a payment since the beginning of May and his small business is in trouble.
"I've had to lay off one person and I'm about to lay off two more," Clyde said. "I can't cover my payroll because Safe Haven hasn't paid me. I'm out 30 or 40 percent of my yearly income. I had to return the dogs because if I keep them, I can't survive."
Jerry Greene, owner of All Aboard Kennel in Dagsboro, recently had Safe Haven pick up the 40 or so dogs he was housing because he says the shelter owes him about $39,800.
"We told Safe Haven at the middle of last month that if they couldn't get caught up or moving forward in the right direction, they had to pick up the dogs," Greene said. "They owe us a lot of money. I've been forced to take legal action against them now because they are purposely and knowingly avoiding me and it's gotten extremely aggravating."
Greene said he has laid-off two employees and he's taken a significant amount of money out of his savings account to keep All Aboard Kennel afloat.
"By laying off those employees [and returning the dogs], we've stopped the bleeding and we're able to move forward," Greene said. "I'm doing what I can to recoup the money Safe Haven owes us, but I know my [remaining] employees are worried. We're a small business, not a Fortune 500 company where $40,000 is just a small drop in the bucket."
Because almost all of the dogs housed by the two kennels are products of Safe Haven's dog control contract with Kent County, the owners say the Kent County Levy Court should step up. Clyde has spoken at two Levy Court meetings, asking the commissioners to take some responsibility for the dogs and for the money owed to his business.
"The courts will decide who owes what," Clyde said. "In my opinion, Kent County is responsible because they hired someone for dog control without properly vetting them to make sure they could handle it."
Greene agrees, saying it's not the Levy Court's fault that Safe Haven did not run its business responsibly, but they made the decision to hire the shelter for dog control.
The Levy Court, which voted July 30 to cancel its more than $868,000 dog control contract with Safe Haven, maintains that they did not have contracts with these kennels, therefore Kent County is not liable for the debt.
Page 2 of 2 - "Certainly we respect the concerns of those folks who have chosen to work with Safe Haven, but we feel no personal obligation to anyone Safe Haven contracted with," said Levy Court President Brooks Banta. "It's the same as if I'd contracted with someone to build my house and he didn't finish the garage. That would be between me and the contractor. These folks need to secure their funds from Safe Haven."
Safe Haven representatives did not respond to numerous requests for an interview. However the shelter has been pleading with the followers on its official Facebook page for assistance in moving dogs.