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Sussex Countian
  • Safe Haven accuses fundraisers of fraud

  • Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary has called into question fundraising efforts of a charity seeking to care for animals at the shelter, prompting the group to disassociate itself from the embattled Georgetown facility.
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  • Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary has called into question fundraising efforts of a charity seeking to care for animals at the shelter, prompting the group to disassociate itself from the embattled Georgetown facility.
    “Everybody has the right to start a charity,” said Lynn Lofthouse, a spokesperson for Safe Haven. “They do not, however, have the right to collect money in someone else’s name.”
    The charity, now called the Grass Roots Rescue Society, was initially dubbed the Safe Haven Volunteers Fund.
    The fund, founded by now-former Safe Haven employee Karli Swope and Lewes resident Tyler Mock, has collected money through www.youcaring.com since mid-July, when the shelter announced it was closing. The fund, according to the web site, was to be controlled by volunteers, rather than the Safe Haven board of directors.
    “Donations will be used for food, shelter and veterinarian treatment of the animals,” the web site states. “Not one penny will be used for Safe Haven debt.”
    Since the charity started, a newly-formed board of directors has decided to keep Safe Haven open. Also since that time, Safe Haven has lost its $868,000 dog control contract with Kent County and it has been revealed the shelter is well over $200,000 in debt.
    In a recent statement released on behalf of the Safe Haven board of directors, spokeswoman Lynn Lofthouse said the shelter was the target of fraud.
    “A group is falsely using and calling themselves the Safe Haven Animal Fund and directing donations to be made to www.youcaring.com,” Lofthouse said. “This is not a Safe Haven site and no checks have been received by Safe Haven to date. This site is promoted by Karli Swope and Tyler Mock who have no legal right or permission to use the Safe Haven name.”
    Swope has been employed by Safe Haven since early 2011, but resigned Aug. 27 after Safe Haven began questioning her fundraising efforts.
    Swope said local veterinarians will not treat Safe Haven animals unless they are paid up front because the shelter is indebted to many area practices.
    “I was using the money [from the charity] to schedule spay and neuter appointments for animals, or if an animal came in injured, we would pay the vet bills,” Swope said. “This was a personal attack. They were either trying to get me to quit or get their hands on the money, but [the fraud accusation] was very misinformed.”
    Swope said the fund raised a total of $6,600 via www.youcaring.com and spent about $5,000 of that on vet bills for the animals prior to her resignation. She said another $800 in outstanding payments is owed.
    Page 2 of 2 - Mock said since the beginning, the charity has been very clear that there were no intentions to turn donations over to the Safe Haven board of directors.
    “The fund was for the animals of Safe Haven, and there was no one at Safe Haven authorized to handle that funding,” he said. “I explained to [former Executive Director] Cindy Woods that we were not starting this project in the guise of some sort of contest. Our positioning was merely for the cause of the animals.”
    However Safe Haven does not share this viewpoint, and has notified the Delaware Attorney General’s Office and the Internal Revenue Service regarding the charity, according to Lofthouse, who labeled Swope and Mock as “criminals.”
    “Swope can’t produce any record showing she has given us any money, because she has not,” Lofthouse said. “Also, we have been told by the public that many people do not realize they are being scammed when they donate to Swope’s site.”
    Lofthouse said Safe Haven is not interested in suing Swope, Mock or Grass Roots Rescue Society because any financial resources the shelter has should be directed to the animals.
    “All anyone at Safe Haven wants is for this fraud to stop,” she said. “Our animals need the money.”
    Grass Roots Rescue Society ended its fundraiser on www.youcaring.com on Aug. 28. The charity is now accepting donations at www.grassrootsrescuede.org; however the web site no longer associates itself with Safe Haven’s animals. Swope said the charity would continue to offer money for veterinary care to Safe Haven dogs, if allowed to do so. Funding will also go towards veterinary care for animals at Josie’s Place Cat Rescue in Millsboro, where Safe Haven’s 86 cats were moved in late July.
    In her recent statement, Lofthouse said the only “legitimate” way to donate to Safe Haven is at www.safehaven.org or by sending a check to Safe Haven, 19022 Shingle Point Road, Georgetown, DE 19947.
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