Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary board members say the shelter will remain open, even in the face of serious financial difficulties.
"Our projection is to be open well into the future," said Safe Haven Interim Executive Director Cindy Woods.
Rich Garrett, who became a Safe Haven board member only six weeks ago, said he is saddened by the financial distress of the group, which a year ago was being lauded for its LEED-certified green building and its philosophy of saving every animal's life.
“We are also considering a merger with another group,” Garrett said. “We want to see if there is a partner out there to merge with us as a way to protect the animals and the mission.”
Garrett said Safe Haven is reaching out through its network of no-kill shelters and partners to find a partner.
Faithful Friends of Wilmington and Delaware SPCA have been helping Safe Haven find places for some of the dogs, Garrett said.
“We are really hoping the public can come forward and help us get these animals adopted,” Garrett said. “We are still hoping someone out there can step up in a big way.”
Garrett said the shelter is asking the public to adopt or foster animals. He said the shelter will be open regular hours this weekend.
Garrett said the board is working to come up with a plan to make the shelter sustainable, which means not taking in dogs if the shelter is full and not paying large bills to kennel dogs elsewhere. He said if the shelter survives, the board wants to bring in a veterinarian to take care of the animals, but that can also generate revenue by providing services for the public.
Once considered a premier accomplishment for Sussex County and the national no-kill shelter movement, Safe Haven raised millions of dollars through grants and donations beginning as early as 2003. The groundbreaking for the building, set on 13 acres, was held June 13, 2008, and the building was completed in February 2012, receiving accolades from many state and national officials. The property is owned by Safe Haven, but the building is mortgaged, Garrett said.
In the past year, Safe Haven has gone head-to-head with citizens over its policies and money spent to save every animal, despite the cost. Embattled former Safe Haven Executive Director Anne Gryzcon was removed in January, after persistent management issues.
Just five months after her departure, a new board of eight members – four new and four original – have realized the financial difficulty of running a no-kill shelter, even one with geothermal energy to lower electricity costs.
Garrett said the shelter's money problems started because the board did not oversee the funds and did not have financial management protocols in place. He said he hopes there will be a future for Safe Haven to get it right and succeed.
Garrett said Safe Haven board members met for a long time June 27 at the shelter to talk about its options. The board decided to continue to provide dog control for Kent County under a recently renewed contract for at least another year, Garrett said.
In addition, the shelter will remain open as board members are optimistic donors and volunteers will step up to help meet costs.
"We have found a pathway to remain open, and we are still desperately seeking help with donations, volunteers and animal adoptions, but for the moment we are going to remain open," Garrett said. "We are going on a leap of faith."
Garrett said about 25 dogs have been placed at other no-kill shelters and an anonymous donor has stepped up to help pay for the transfer of additional dogs.
"Some people are helping us in some very practical ways," Garrett said, "but we are still asking the public for support. Any gift, large or small, is important to the animals at Safe Haven."
Kent County officials did not return Cape Gazette requests for comment.
Safe Haven is located at 19022 Shingle Point Road, Georgetown. For more information, call 302-856-6460 or go to www.safehavende.org. The shelter is open from 12 to 6 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, and 12 to 7 p.m. on Friday.