A new novel was published in June by a controversial figure in Delaware animal politics. "No Kill Station: Murder at Rehoboth Beach" is the title of the mystery written by Diane Meier.
She served on the Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary Board for three years and wrote the No Kill Delaware blog and Facebook page. Meier said, "I think some people appreciated what I tried to do. And others were very angry. The important thing is that now the state is enforcing the animal shelter law and that the dogs picked up by animal control go to the Brandywine Valley SPCA, where they save 90 percent of the animals. I am happy to think of Delaware as a no-kill state."
Meier said her novel is about the murder of an animal shelter director who neglects, abuses and kills animals. "I enjoyed killing off the evil shelter director on page 1," she said. A Rehoboth Beach police officer and state trooper investigate, and the critics of the shelter are suspects because of their anger at the director.
All proceeds from sales of the book go to Home for Life, a no-kill animal sanctuary in Minnesota which takes animals with disabilities and serious behavior issues.
Meier said, "Home for Life has operated successfully as a no-kill sanctuary for decades. Also, they took Sierra, the biting chow pulled by a Safe Haven staff member before the shelter closed, but then she bit someone. Now Sierra and her two buddies live in a large room with a play yard, and the group runs every day together in a huge field."
When asked about Safe Haven, Meier says, "Safe Haven was a tragedy for the community, especially the killing of the last 19 dogs. Staff and volunteers who knew those dogs still mourn for them. Everyone has a theory about why Safe Haven went bankrupt, which is inevitable with such a sad mess."
Meier thinks Safe Haven failed not because it was a no-kill shelter but rather from two big decisions that resulted in big financial problems. "First, the building was poorly designed and outrageously expensive. When I joined the board, those plans were a done deal. The federal loan officer supervising the bid process could not get the board to change the building design but allowed the process to go forward anyway," she said.
The second reason, according to Meier, was that they didn't have an in-house veterinarian on day one, so medical costs were too high. She says she left the board about 18 months before the shelter closed. Meier said, "I felt that the board did not have the will or capacity to solve the financial and operational problems." According to Meier, the heroes of the Safe Haven story are the people who desperately tried to save the dogs and cats after ASPCA took over the building. "Delaware's no-kill shelters and some rescue groups took dogs and cats in the last few weeks, and volunteers worked their hearts out," she said.
"It made absolutely no sense that the board or ASPCA decided that only rescue groups with a facility could have animals. That ruled out most rescue groups because they typically rely on fostering," she said. Meier describes one mass rescue of about 80 cats about a month before ASPCA took over. "Cindy Woods, the interim director, and volunteers got the cats to safety one night because it was clear the cats would be killed. That was one for the books. I understand that the cats were adopted after a lot of hard work by caring people. Apparently the remaining board members were outraged by the rescue mission and they gave Cindy a lot of grief, which I find absurd and mean-spirited. Of course, that was her last day at work," Meier said.
By the time Safe Haven closed, Meier had five dogs. "Four of our dogs were from Safe Haven - two pit bulls and two beagles with serious health and behavior issues," Meier said. She and her husband moved out of Delaware in 2014 to be closer to their grandchildren in the Philadelphia suburbs.
For more information or to purchase the book, go to www.nokillstation.net.