Why 'Wood' anyone think this is okay?

Helen, who is blind, and Tom, a bonded pair now tragically separated, at the Spring Fling on May 31.
August 18, 2013

I have become aware of the missing 86 cats at Safe Haven and the disappearance of Tom, the seeing-eye dog bonded with blind Helen. Cindy Wood, acting director of Safe Haven, is responsible for all of this. She sent the 86 cats away to locations she refuses to disclose and adopted out Tom, who was bonded with a blind dog, Helen, all over the weekend of July 20.

Since Ms. Wood told no one about the purge, when on July 28 a volunteer entered the sanctuary to care for the cats, the police were called and a theft reported. For anyone thinking that Ms. Wood is in some strange way a “savior” of animals, let me say this.

First, the 86 cats at Safe Haven were cared for well, with caring volunteers coming in to assist the staff. The sanctuary has liberal hours for adoption, with on-site and off-site adoption events. During the year it has been open, anyone could come in and adopt a cat. Strangely, cat adoptions were slow, as I am told they are at KCSPCA, Faithful Friends, Delaware Humane, Georgetown SPCA and Delaware SPCA. All these facilities have experienced, knowledgeable executive directors who have tried everything to get cats adopted out.

Despite these accredited shelters' inability to move 86 cats to good homes, in one weekend Ms. Wood moved all 86 cats from the shelter, after closing and under cover of darkness.  Wood told police that they went to “good homes.”  Cindy Wood told police that she was the acting director of the sanctuary, which she was, and that she had the right to “transfer” animals.  No charges against Ms. Wood could be brought, since she technically had this authority.

While no arrest was made, intelligent observers should be asking if an “acting” director has authority to clear a sanctuary of all cats after hours, under cover of darkness, without asking or telling the board of her plans.  These cats were grouped with others with whom they got along and had formed bonds. Now moved, where are they? Under what conditions are they living, if they are alive at all?

If these cats went to such great destinations that are so much better than the sanctuary, Cindy Wood should be happy to show us where they are and let the community judge if the cats are better off. I have been in animal rescue for 30 years.  Never have I heard of an acting director acting to clear a shelter of an entire species.  Cindy Wood wants the public to believe that she found good homes for 86 cats in a weekend. If this is true, I call on Ms. Wood to show us.  She needs to do two things.

First, she should let the public know where these cats have been placed so intelligent, caring citizens and Safe Have supporters can judge for themselves if the cats are now better off than they were at the sanctuary.  What is better off? First, better off is if the cats’ living facilities now better accommodate their needs than the air conditioned sanctuary where cats had room, toys, care and medical services. Second, “better off” would be if the cats now have better exposure and a better chance to find permanent homes. These criterions are basic to judge if the cats are “better off” than at Safe Haven.

If Ms. Wood accomplished what no one else has been able to do, she should proudly be open and honest.  She first should let the public know where each of the cats now lives so the public can decide if Wood’s antics are justified by the outcome. Then, Ms. Wood should reveal how she accomplished what no one has before. If Ms. Wood has such specific knowledge and strategies for finding homes for 86 cats in such an abbreviated time frame, let her share this with other shelters around the country - around the world.

She should be doing seminars to instruct seasoned executive directors at shelters how to get cats adopted out, because this has been a problem for shelters for years.  At Cindy Wood, we should all be in awe!  Cindy:  Just tell us how you accomplished this!

I have heard that Ms. Wood told people that the cats were going to be “re-located” to an upstairs area of the sanctuary where there is no air conditioning. Here is the truth. The board did discuss such a move, but only if air conditioners could be purchased for that space.  The upstairs area is well lighted, cheery and large.  With air conditioning, it would work well as a temporary home for the cats.  They would still be on display for adoption.

While Wood's behavior is disturbing, no act is more despicable than how she took Tom away from blind Helen. These dogs were a bonded pair who came to the sanctuary together. Helen leaned on Tom to find her way around. I was told when I did the publicity for the Spring Fling, featuring Tom and Helen as the ambassadors, that they would never be separated by Sharon Donovan, a board member.

Now, Tom is gone and no one knows where he is. All board members can find out is that Tom was “adopted” but Ms. Wood will not reveal where. While Tom and Helen were assured they would stay together, Ms. Wood says that an adopter just had to have Tom, so she took him from Helen.

Let’s examine this. Tom is a pit bull mix, and we have over 100 dogs at Safe Haven that are pit bull mixes. It is curious that an “adopter” had to have Tom, the only dog on whom Helen depended.

Why would Ms. Wood allow Tom to be taken from Helen, and why did she not respect the commitment to keeping the pair together? Perhaps Ms. Wood knows something about bonded pairs to which no one else is privy.

Ms. Wood has no background in animal care. She is a nurse by profession. One must wonder why Ms. Wood gave up a career in nursing to take a job at Safe Haven. Despite her inexperience, taking Tom from Helen and clearing the sanctuary of 86 cats to an unknown fate is inexcusable and a breach of ethics to the sanctuary and the community. Ms. Woods says she loves and cares about animals; if she does, she should stay away from any animal facility and go back to nursing.

Lynn J. Lofthouse Ph.D.

associate professor of speech communications

Wesley College

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