Two animal organizations are vying to provide dog control in Sussex County.
Both Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary outside Georgetown and the Kent County SPCA have submitted bids for the contract, which last year cost county taxpayers nearly $670,000.
Kent County SPCA has provided dog control in Sussex for the past three years, but that contract ends at the end of the year.
Meanwhile, in Kent County, KCSPCA lost the contract to Safe Haven after KCSPCA could not reach an agreement with Kent County Levy Court. In June 2012, Kent Levy Court officials awarded the contract to Safe Haven, a no-kill animal shelter near Georgetown.
While Safe Haven is now providing dog control in Kent County, the sanctuary has drawn criticism because the Shingle Point Road shelter is open to the public only on Fridays and Saturdays or by appointment and its offices frequently cannot be reached.
Dog control in Sussex County is contracted through Sussex County Council.
A committee made up of Sussex County Finance Director Susan Webb, Constable Allan Holloway and Assessment Officer Eddy Parker reviewed bids submitted last month. The committee is currently evaluating the bids, said Webb.
"We will take the recommendation to council in the next couple of weeks," Webb said.
Counties took over responsibility for dog control in 2009 when state legislation required Delaware's three counties to assume the cost of dog control.
In 2011, the county collected about $120,000 in licensing fees and spent nearly $670,000 for the dog control contract with KCSPCA.
The contract includes catching, sheltering and caring for stray dogs and dogs found at large. If a dog is deemed dangerous, a state dog control panel determines if the dog can be returned to the owner or if it should be euthanized.
Safe Haven submitted a bid for Sussex County's 2012 dog-control contract, but Safe Haven's facilities were not open, and county council decided to stay with KCSPA. At the time, Safe Haven Executive Director Anne Gryczon said construction of Safe Haven would be completed, and the building opened, in early 2012.
Tale of two shelters
Kevin Usilton, executive director of the Kent County SPCA, said his organization provides animal control services to Sussex residents with five officers, one rabies-control officer and one supervisor. KCSPCA also provided dog control in New Castle County.
“No dogs are allowed to run at large in Delaware,” Usilton said. “If the owner fails to leash the dog, he can be fined not less than $25 and no more than $50, with subsequent fines not over $100.”
Usilton said his organization works with local kennels in Sussex to help connect owners with stray dogs.
“If the dogs are not claimed, we bring them to Camden for processing,” Usilton said.
Gryczon said Safe Haven treats each dog situation individually. In some cases, the dog must be turned over to authorities, she said. Safe Haven animal control officers also work on owner education, including ways to properly confine the dog.
“As a true no-kill shelter, we do our best to be creative and look outside of the box to save lives,” Gryczon said. “This is the first time in 47 years that no stray Kent County dog has lost its life while under the care of a dog-control contractor.”
Looking for a safe haven
On June 26, Kent County Levy Court voted unanimously to approve Safe Haven’s $828,000 contract for dog control in Kent County. Levy Court commissioners had tried for a month to reach an agreement with Kent County SPCA, which previously held the Kent County contract, but those negotiations failed in June.
Kent County Administrator Mike Petit de Mange said he had been in discussion with Safe Haven for two weeks, and had visited its 20,000-square-foot, green building. At the time, he was concerned Safe Haven did not have a Kent County facility. Petit de Mange did not return calls to comment on the Safe Haven contract.
This week, Gryczon said Safe Haven is trying to acquire a 5,000-square-foot warehouse on 5 acres in the Little Creek area of Dover, but negotiations have been ongoing since July. Any building purchased by Safe Haven would need to be retrofitted for kennels to house dogs.
Gryczon said the organization is waiting for a sewer permit to move forward.
“During this process we are working proactively with dog owners who have lost their pets and are trying to reclaim them,” Gryczon said. “We allow owners to pick up their dogs from our Georgetown facility and a Kent County private kennel at times that are convenient for them. We also deliver dogs directly back to their homes when needed.”
The Safe Haven shelter was slated to open mid-August, but it remains open only by appointment by calling 302-856-6460. Gryczon said Safe Haven will be open Fridays from 12 to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 12 to 5 p.m. For more information on Safe Haven, go to www.safehavende.org.
For more on KCSPA, go to kcspca.org.