Reasons for not renewing Safe Haven contract

August 17, 2013

Last week, I voted to cancel the contract awarded to Safe Haven for dog control. My purpose for writing this letter is not to defend my decision or prove anyone wrong. It is not to decide if Safe Haven or the KCSPCA is the better option. What I hope it does is outline why I felt it was necessary to make this difficult decision.

Last spring, Levy Court reviewed two proposals for the dog control contract in Kent County. After it was determined by the county attorney that the KCSPCA proposal failed to meet bid specifications, Levy Court awarded the contract to Safe Haven. One month into the contract (June of this year), Safe Haven informed Levy Court that it was having difficulties and inquired about getting a financial advance on the contract. Two weeks later, Safe Haven sent notice that they were in trouble and needed out of the contract.

Four days after sending the cancellation notice, Safe Haven informed Levy Court that their current executive director along with three board members, including the chairman, had been replaced and that the new board had changed their mind. This turn of events is why Commissioner Banta correctly called for an emergency meeting to discuss the contract with Safe Haven.

I spent several days leading up to the meeting trying to gather as much facts as possible. I visited the site and spent time talking to individuals involved with Safe Haven. What I learned made the difficult decision to cancel the contract obvious. I learned that the dogs brought in by the contract was impacting the level of care provided by the shelter and it had the potential to escalate.

I learned that the accounting sheet provided by Safe Haven omitted expenses required by law to fulfill the contract. I learned that Safe Haven owes money to a lot of people and the dog control contract was contributing to the debt. Finally, I learned that the Safe Haven staff and volunteers are good people who want what is best for the animals even if it means giving up the contract.

Combining a "no kill" philosophy with a dog control contract demands a very unique set of circumstances. Having a relatively new shelter make this work was too much to ask and the numbers back this up. Politically, I could have avoided criticism by voting to extend the contract. However, I am convinced that extending the contract would have only delayed the inevitable while at the same time put Safe Haven further in debt and animals at greater risk.

I am a fan of Safe Haven and sincerely wish them success in their restructuring. I regret not having the vision to see this coming and for that I apologize. However, ignoring the facts in an effort to save face is not an option. Last Tuesday, I did what I thought had to be done based on the facts presented to me. In the interim, I believe Levy Court has an obligation to work with Safe Haven as they manage to regain their footing. I look forward to seeing Safe Haven refocus its efforts and move forward in their mission.

Eric Buckson
Levy Court commissioner, Camden


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