Several former members of Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary Board of Directors and volunteers for the group have broken ties and formed a new organization.
The new Citizens to Save Safe Haven aims to protect the animals taken in by Safe Haven by improving record keeping and financial management.
Lori Beinhauer says she’s volunteered at Safe Haven, helping to promote the group, raise funds and foster animals that were waiting to be adopted. But now she has serious concerns about financial mismanagement and improper care.
Last year, Beinhauer said she took in Delilah, a dog from Safe Haven.
“The reason I needed to foster her was because she was positive for heartworm,” said Beinhauer.
She said Delilah had tested negative for heartworm while in the care of Kent County SPCA, but upon being taken in by Safe Haven, the dog contracted the disease.
“This means she got heartworm while in the care of Safe Haven because they refuse to administer preventative medication,” Beinhauer said.
In January, Beinhauer said, her concerns about poor management led her to form Citizens to Save Safe Haven.
Safe Haven Executive Director Anne Gryczon said Safe Haven was created to save animals, and when animals are facing euthanasia at other shelters, Safe Haven chooses to take them in to save their lives, even though that means spending money to house animals with volunteers and at local kennels.
On Jan. 26, Citizens to Save Safe Haven met. Two former Safe Haven board members were among the group.
Larry Adams and George Coscia resigned from their Safe Haven posts in January, citing poor financial management as key in their decision.
Adams said he served on the board for nearly six years because he loves animals. He said the Safe Haven board authorized 10 dogs to be taken from Kent County SPCA and housed in Sussex by Safe Haven, with foster parents or at local kennels.
Safe Haven now has about 35 dogs in kennels or foster homes.
“These dogs are in boarding kennels and going to private vets, and it is costing up to $15,000 a month,” said Adams. “We need to pay off the building first, then save dogs.”
For Gryczon, the mission of Safe Haven is to save dogs. She said the animals rescued from Kent County needed homes immediately, so she found volunteers to take them in.
“Our mission is to save animals, and that is what we are doing,” Gryczon said. “We have great volunteers and are working with local kennels to make sure these dogs find the right place for them.”
The dogs in the kennels are visited and walked regularly, Gryczon said.
Kennel bills rising
For Adams, Safe Haven is approaching its mission in the wrong order.
“The boarding bills are going up, and if they were getting dogs adopted, those bills would go down,” Adams said. “So something is not right. This didn’t just happen - people don’t just walk away from a board they are committed to, unless there is something seriously wrong.”
George Coscia was a member of the Safe Haven board for more than eight years. He said he resigned because Safe Haven is not being run as a business should.
“I am frustrated. There are people on the board that have no idea how to run a business, and Safe Haven is a business,” Coscia said. “You can’t divert money from building the facility by trying to save a few dogs, and that is what they are doing.”
Coscia said Citizens to Save Safe Haven is an organization dedicated to Safe Haven, but it is dedicated to having the shelter open and working for the public.
“I don’t feel Safe Haven is going in the right direction, so after eight years I just had to give up,” said Coscia. “I want the building to open and to help animals here, but I have great reservations about how they are doing it.”
Adams agreed, saying he hoped for Safe Haven’s success in the future.
“It is really a shame to have this happen to a good organization,” said Adams. “I want Safe Haven to succeed, but they cannot get there with current leadership. I am not sure how it will work out.”
Reviewing the case of Delilah, the dog that has heartworm, Safe Haven Board Chairman Hal Dukes said it was unfortunate. Dukes said Safe Haven wants to treat animals, but not over-treat them.
“We don’t want to over-medicate the animals,” Dukes said. “We are in the process of getting a vet and finishing the building.”
The vet and vet technician will have a medical wing in the back of the new Safe Haven building off Shingle Point Road outside Georgetown.
Residents will be able to bring in sick or unneutered animals, and Safe Haven will provide services at reasonable rates. By using grant money, as well as private donations, Safe Haven plans to provide dog cages with glass partitions and doors to outside play areas. It also plans to have a open-air cat room.
Gryczon said a large private donation will help purchase a digital radiology x-ray machine.
She said an anonymous donor gave the organization $800,000 on Christmas Eve through a private estate. The money is earmarked for veterinary care at Safe Haven.
“It was a scramble over Christmas to get bank accounts set up to handle this large donation,” Dukes said.
FDIC insurance mandates no more than $250,000 in any given bank account, so Safe Haven board members had to open new accounts during the holidays.
“We are waiting for the trustees to give us more information about how the money should be used, so for right now, it is just set aside,” said Lois Fargo, a member of the Safe Haven board.
Beinhauer said she believes the money is being mismanaged because she knows certain people have access to it and are not using it for care of dogs rescued by Safe Haven.
Fargo said the money can only be used for certain purchases, including veterinary care.
“We have only used the donation to pay to open the bank account and for one emergency pet bill,” Fargo said. “Since we can’t use it toward the building, it is waiting there until its purpose is laid out.”
Dukes said he understands concerns of the public, who are anxious to see the decade-long fundraising efforts culminate in the opening of the Safe Haven building. He hopes the building will be open by Easter.
He said the Safe Haven board operates under certain philosophies, including saving animals whenever it can, but he said he understands how some people disagree with the approach.
Dukes said differences of opinion should not cloud the overall value of the work Safe Haven is doing.
“We have something really special here,” Dukes said. “I can see it being a destination, and drawing residents from across the state.”
For more information on the Citizens to Save Safe Haven, go to their Facebook page.
For more information on Safe Haven, visit www.safehavensanctuary.com.