The board of Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary in Georgetown has announced Executive Director Anne Gryczon, who has served the organization since 2007, is no longer at the helm.
The board's statement, released late Jan. 10, says Safe Haven will continue to focus on its no-kill philosophy, but the sanctuary will take action to increase adoptions and boost its spay/neuter program.
Cindy Woods, medical director for Safe Haven, has been named acting director.
"As the organization has transformed from concept to reality, we concluded that our needs are different now, and Anne's skill set does not match our current requirements," said board members in the statement. "But we want to stress Anne's success in getting the building from concept to reality, achieving our financing, and, of course, instilling in us all her dedication to the animals."
The board says it will continue to provide a pet food pantry, which helps feed more than 600 feral cats living in colonies.
In the statement the board said, "As the changes at Safe Haven take place, the board reiterated its commitment to a no-kill philosophy, confidence in the hardworking staff to look after the animals, and deep appreciation to the hundreds of volunteers, supporters and donors who were instrumental in opening the doors at the shelter."
Building a safe haven
Longtime volunteer Karli Swope said a group of staff members assembled a report on conditions of dogs living in three kennels in Kent and Sussex counties. She said the dogs have lost weight to the point staff members worried about their health.
Swope said paying kennel fees for those dogs is draining money rapidly from the organization. She said one kennel is housing 22 Safe Haven dogs at the cost of $18,000 a month.
"With 200 dogs, the ones in the kennels don't get much exposure, so they aren't getting adopted," Swope said. "Of the 200 dogs, only about 15 percent are spayed or neutered."
Swope said she hopes the board's decision to remove Gryczon leads to better management. She wants adoptions to increase and conditions for the animals to improve.
Several Safe Haven board members and volunteers resigned in February 2012 amid criticism of Gryczon's management. They formed Citizens to Save Safe Haven, which aims to improve conditions and management of the organization.
Diane Meier, another board member, stepped down in July, citing Gryczon's inability to get animals adopted. Meier also runs No-Kill Delaware, which reports on animal welfare issues across the state.
The board now has only four members, Hal Dukes Jr., Lois Fargo, Rick Kirchhoff and Jane Blue. None of the board members could be reached for comment at press time.
Swope said she hopes new board members are added to diversify the group.
In November, a former employee and a Safe Haven volunteer attended the state animal welfare task force public hearing to report concerns with the Safe Haven organization. According to the reports, animals were not being spayed or neutered, and adoptions were not keeping up with the large number of animals being brought to the shelter. Among other criticisms raised during the task force meeting was a report that Safe Haven had spent more than $20,000 caring for a kitten suffering from feline leukemia. The kitten later died.
Contacted in December, Gryczon was unable to report the number of animals adopted from the shelter in October and November, the first months the shelter was open to the public with regular hours.
In July, Safe Haven was awarded the Kent County contract for dog control. The $827,000 contract gave Safe Haven authority to reunite lost dogs with owners and provide medical care to injured lost dogs.
The funding also allowed Safe Haven to purchase cargo vans to transport animals. Since July, Gryczon had been working to lease or purchase a facility in Kent County to make it easier for dog owners to find lost pets, but she was unable to find such a location.
Gryczon could not be reached for comment.
Swope, who has successfully adopted out 100 dogs since 2010, said she hopes new volunteers and foster parents will support Safe Haven now that the executive director has been removed. To volunteer, email Swope at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Safe Haven press release
For immediate release: Jan 10, 2013
Contact: Fay Jacobs 302-236-7133
Safe Haven announces leadership change
Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary in Georgetown has responded to its evolving needs and new status as an open-to-the public No-Kill facility by making a change at the top. On Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, the Board announced that Executive Director Anne Gryczon is no longer at the helm.
Director of Operations and Medical Care Cindy Woods has been appointed as acting director, with current staff and board members also taking over some of the executive tasks. Gryczon had served as Executive Director since 2007.
"As the organization has transformed from concept to reality, we concluded that our needs are different now and Anne's skill set does not match our current requirements," said a statement from the Safe Haven Board of Directors. "But we want to stress Anne's success in getting the building from concept to reality, achieving our financing and, of course instilling in us all, her dedication to the animals."
As the changes at Safe Haven take place, the Board reiterated its commitment to a No-Kill philosophy, confidence in the hard-working staff to look after the animals, and deep appreciation to the hundreds of volunteers, supporters and donors who were instrumental in opening the doors at the shelter.
While Safe Haven opened to the public last fall, the organization has been ferrying animals to other no-kill centers or foster homes for several years. Prior to opening, they were running spay/neuter programs, a pet food pantry feeding over 600 cats in County colonies and a life-saving foster system.
Now, the Board and staff intend to step up both the spay/neuter and adoption programs, getting more animals into their forever homes, and taking action to curb the number of homeless animals in the area.
A primary focus will be to reduce the number of animals fostered for Safe Haven in other local facilities (although this is a standard shelter practice nationwide) and concentrate on sending those animals home with adoptive families.
For more information about Safe Haven and its adoption program, check out www.safehavende.org.