By Kristen Gloss
After 47 years of animal control service, Kent County’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (KCSPCA) stepped down from the role. Instead Safe Haven, the no-kill animal sanctuary, agreed to Kent County’s animal control contract and began work to ready their organization for this task.
“This is tough to step in like this so quickly, but our building was built for this,” said Diane Meier, Secretary of the Safe Haven Board of Directors. “We are going to really work hard to return dogs to their owners.”
While KCSPCA Director Kevin Usilton questions the preparedness of Safe Haven, Safe Haven members are rushing to meet the needs of Kent County’s humans and dogs alike.
“Safe Haven always planned to do animal control, just not Kent County before. There was this desperate need. We said yes because it had gotten to a point where it was clear Kent County and KCSPCA would not be able to work together,” said Meier.
Usilton had reviewed the expenses for this year after he became director and found that in order to meet the state standards established by the Delaware Companion Animal Protection Act (CAPA), the organization would have needed an increase in the money received from the county. CAPA requires shelters to do things like hold animals for five days instead of three, give vaccinations to animals upon entry, and only euthanize animals by a certified technician.
Kent County did not meet the demands of KCSPCA, because “the county needs to be frugal with taxpayers dollars,” Usilton said.
In the previous year, KCSPCA was paid $758,000 a year by Kent County for their animal contract. Safe Haven is getting paid approximately $820,000 for a year of service. Usilton said this is wrong when Safe Haven is providing less services than KCSPCA did when they had been paid the lower amount.
Usilton’s concern, however, is for the dogs. Already, he said, one dog has died from the heat wave because there was nobody to reply to the complaint in a timely fashion.
“I think the residents of Kent (animal and people) should stand up until they get the services they deserve,” Usilton said. “The county needs to get Safe Haven up and running and working. Animals alive today won’t be alive tomorrow if they’re not addressed in a timely manner.”
The location of Safe Haven’s new facility in Georgetown raised concern over their ability to act in a timely manner. The distance, however, will not be a problem, said Meier. Safe Haven will have a satellite facility in Kent County, just as the SPCA had satellite facilities in the past. The location of the more permanent facility, as opposed to their current temporary one, is not being disclosed at this time.
In further preparation for providing this service, Safe Haven is hiring through job fairs in Sussex and Kent County. The fair in Sussex produced over 200 applicants and it already has people going out on calls.
The new four million dollar building, though it took awhile to raise money and complete, is not like the old-fashioned kennels. “You walk into our building and it’s quiet,” Meier said. The building features little individual rooms with walls separating the dogs so they aren’t barking and growling at each other.
Furthermore, Safe Haven will have air conditioned and heated vans to make the dogs they rescue comfortable. “[Rescuing dogs] is a matter of a van and a person who has an understanding of dogs. There’s an art to it,” said Meier. “We have some real dog whisperers working here.”
Before transporting the rescued dogs anywhere, Safe Haven officers will ask around the area to see who the dog belongs to in order to try to return them home as quickly as possible.
“Animal control is a 24/7 job,” said Meier. “[Safe Haven] wants to be a safety net for animals when they are most in need. The best thing we can do is find and bring the dogs home.”