Del. Animal Services enforcement unit launched

WILMINGTON — In a news release Wednesday, the Division of Public Health’s Office of Animal Welfare announced the launch of a new enforcement unit, Delaware Animal Services.

Formation of the new unit began after the Delaware General Assembly passed legislation in June to centralize animal control responsibilities within the state. Those responsibilities were accelerated considerably when the current contractor declined to provide services after mid-September, the state said.

Animal Services will assume management of statewide animal cruelty enforcement and rabies control. Local animal control services still will be managed by New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties, as well as the city of Wilmington, until their contracts with an outside provider expire. At that time, Delaware Animal Services also will assume responsibility for statewide animal control services.

The state said that reconsolidation of animal control and cruelty enforcement at the state level was first requested in 2013 by the Delaware Animal Welfare Task Force in published recommendations. Since that time, the Office of Animal Welfare worked closely with county, city and state representatives, local animal shelters and welfare organizations, and members of the public to draft two sets of recommendations calling for the establishment of a state-run animal control function.

“After hearing the concerns of the counties and members of the public, we felt this was the best path forward,” says Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Division of Public Health.

“By consolidating services, we can ensure that the services we offer are consistent and aligned with public expectations.”

Managing animal cruelty

Starting Wednesday, Delaware Animal Services began to manage all reports of animal cruelty and cases in which a human has been exposed to the rabies virus. The program offers a new hotline, 255-4646, and email at to report such incidents.

Delaware Animal Services will incrementally assume enforcement responsibilities for animal control laws in January 2016. Until then, Chester County SPCA will provide animal control services for the city of Wilmington and Kent County.

Kent County customers needing assistance after hours with Dog Control Services should call (302) 300-8244 to reach a Chester County SPCA representative. Wilmington customers needing services after hours should call 995-7313.

First State Animal Center-SPCA in Camden will provide animal control services for New Castle and Sussex counties through Dec. 31. The animal welfare office said it is working closely with those entities to ensure service needs are met.

“All agencies are closely coordinating their activities to ensure the needs of the public will continue to be met and to make the final transition of services to the state as seamless as possible,” says Hetti Brown, director of the Office of Animal Welfare.

Chester County partner

To temporarily shelter animals detained during animal cruelty investigations, the Office of Animal Welfare is partnering with the Chester County SPCA.

“The Chester County SPCA is very experienced in emergency animal sheltering and in providing service to abused and neglected animals,” Ms. Brown said.

“They were one of the first organizations to offer services when they heard we were in need and we are grateful for their commitment to animal welfare.”

The Delaware Humane Association, Faithful Friends Animal Society and several animal rescues also have volunteered to assist the state, and those organizations are working with the Chester County SPCA to provide adoption services for Delaware animals ready to find homes.

The Office of Animal Welfare is launching Delaware Animal Services ahead of the original schedule, after the current animal cruelty and rabies control provider suddenly announced it would terminate services earlier than expected.

First State Animal Center-SPCA, which held contracts with the state for these services until June 30, 2016, announced in mid-July it planned to end services on Sept. 15. After exploring options, DPH said it determined that the best path forward to protect Delawareans and their pets was to significantly speed up the planning to assume responsibility for these functions.

To date, the OAW said it has built the infrastructure to assume such responsibilities, including hiring staff, purchasing equipment, and developing policies and procedures.

Said Dr. Rattay, “With this new centralized animal control program, the Office of Animal Welfare can ensure animal control and enforcement services will be provided in a consistent and sustainable manner, to the benefit of all Delawareans and their pets.”

To report animal cruelty or suspected rabies, call 255-4646 or email

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