SPCA buys old Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary

GEORGETOWN — Brandywine Valley SPCA was the successful bidder Saturday in the public auction of the former Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary – property BVSPCA plans to convert into a rescue/rehab center.

BVSPCA intends to renovate the facility to provide additional services for the region’s most vulnerable dogs and cats, such as cruelty survivors, disaster victims, newborns and infants, animals at risk in other shelters, and those requiring time and training to increase their adopt-ability.

“Today was a big step forward in saving the lives of animals on the fringe of adoption,” said Adam Lamb, BVSPCA CEO. “But it’s just the first step. We’re under contact and need the community’s continued support to raise the additional funds needed to close in 45 days and complete the fit-out.”

The 11,500-square foot facility is located on 13 acres on Shingle Point Road, off Rt. 9 several miles east of Georgetown.

The BVSPCA secured the property with a winning bid of $880,000; ($800,000 base, 10-percent auctioneer fee).

BVSPCA estimates the property will require $500,000 in fit-out work. The fit-out estimate includes $250,000 in repairs and renovations to the building and property, which have been vacant since 2013, and $250,000 in equipment and furniture.

In addition, the BVSPCA needs $200,000 to close the gap between fundraising to date and the purchase price, totaling $700,000 in needed funding to open the facility.

In May, Brandywine Valley SPCA announced it has been awarded a $200,000 matching grant from Longwood Foundation Inc. in support of its plans to open a new Rescue & Rehab Center at the Georgetown facility formerly operated at Safe Haven.

Donations in support of the BVSPCA Rescue & Rehab Center can be made at www.bvspca.org/rescue-rehab or by mail to: Brandywine Valley SPCA, 22918 Dupont Boulevard, Georgetown, DE 19947.

History of the building

Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary had originally opened in 2011 with a donation of $819,000.

Safe Haven closed down the facility in Nov. 2013.

Near its closing, it was reported that $140,000 was still owed for the building alone. That didn’t include operating costs, which were – at the time – estimated to exceed $125,000 per month.

After several adoption drives in the run up to their closing, they successfully found homes for the vast majority of the animals in their care, but were ultimately forced to euthanize 19 dogs. Officials’ decision to euthanize dogs drew criticism as it went against the stated policy of a sanctuary.

Safe Haven was thought to have been kept afloat by a dog control contract it had with Kent County, but after that was terminated earlier in 2013, the facility was running on donations alone. The county contract had been worth a reported $72,000 a month.

The dire financial straits had been publicized by Safe Haven through continuous adoption programs and pleas for volunteers, supplies, monetary donations and direct pay to veterinarians it is indebted to.

The Kent County SPCA (now the First State Animal Center and SPCA) took over the county’s dog control contract upon Safe Haven’s termination.

At the time, then director of the Kent County SPCA, Kevin Usilton, told this paper that some of the blame for the shelter’s closing was on Delaware’s animal welfare policies.

“The Companion Animal Protection Act (CAPA) is an unfunded state mandate that requires certain shelter standards, but Safe Haven didn’t follow because they are a no-kill shelter,” he said at the time.

“The animals they took in didn’t have to be spayed or neutered and weren’t medically evaluated. For CAPA, some animals that are dying or need an extreme amount of medical attention are euthanized, and Safe Haven took in every dog they were given, and that’s how you accumulate too many to manage or care for.”

About the Brandywine Valley SPCA

Founded in 1929, the Brandywine Valley SPCA is the first open admission no-kill shelter in Pennsylvania and Delaware. In 2017, the BVSPCA cared for more than 13,000 stray, owner-surrendered, wayward owned, and abused and neglected animals while achieving a 96 percent live release rate.

The BVSPCA provides animal protective services for Chester County and much of Delaware County in Pennsylvania, and it holds a five-year contract with the Delaware Office of Animal Welfare to provide state-wide animal services for dogs.

Animals are placed through four adoption centers: the West Chester Campus, the New Castle Campus, the Georgetown Campus, and a PetSmart® Everyday Adoption Center in Dover. In addition, the BVSPCA provides families with safety net and low-cost veterinary services at its three clinic locations: the Malvern Animal Health Center, the New Castle Animal Health Center, and the Georgetown Animal Health Center.

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