Cape Gazette

Task force to hear animal welfare concerns

Sussex residents expected to speak at Nov. 29 meeting
By Rachel Swick Mavity | Nov 23, 2012
Photo by: Rachel Swick Mavity Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary outside Georgetown is open for adoptions Fridays and Saturdays. In December, the organization plans to host holiday-themed adoption events every Saturday.

Concerns about the welfare of animals taken to Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary are expected to be raised at an upcoming hearing of the state animal welfare task force.

Marleen Oetzel, founder of Lost and Found Dog Rescue adoption center, based in New Castle, said she’s concerned hundreds of dogs under Safe Haven’s care could be confined to crates in kennels across Delaware.

With the Safe Haven building off Shingle Point Road complete but not open full-time, Oetzel said she's concerned dogs are not being adopted as quickly as possible and are instead living in crates.

Oetzel said she is worried Safe Haven may be unsafe for animals, similar to a Kentucky shelter where Safe Haven Executive Director Anne Gryczon worked before she moved to Delaware.

At the Kentucky shelter, a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals investigation found large numbers of animals living in crates and cages. In 2005, PETA declared the shelter a hoarding situation.

Gryczon denied the allegations both in Kentucky and at Safe Haven. She said she was not the director of the Kentucky organization, and noted PETA has no legal authority to perform investigations.

Gryczon said Safe Haven is a no-kill shelter, which will save many animals from being euthanized. She said the shelter is complete, but the organization is still training its staff.

Safe Haven is open Fridays and Saturdays for adoptions, but despite repeated requests from the Cape Gazette, Gryczon could not provide information on the number of adoptions completed in October or November.

According to the Safe Haven website, at least one dog was adopted, and according to Gryczon, a bonded pair of dogs was adopted this week.

Oetzel, who has experience rescuing and adopting dogs all over Delaware, said she knows how hard it can be to find good homes, but she said Safe Haven is not doing all it can.

By law, all animal shelters are required to keep regular hours to allow the public to view and adopt animals. Until Oct. 26, Safe Haven had no public hours, instead prompting residents to view dogs online and then call to make an appointment.

Gryczon said she has 28 employees, but they are not ready or fully trained in order to open the six days a week more typical of shelter operations.

Of the nearly 200 dogs in Safe Haven’s care, only 80 are living at the Shingle Point Road facility outside Georgetown, Gryczon said. The remaining 120 dogs, Gryczon said, are divided among two off-site kennels, one in Kent County and one in Sussex, she said.

Oetzel said she believes more than two kennels are housing Safe Haven dogs.

Several local kennels contacted by the Cape Gazette declined to say whether they were housing dogs from Safe Haven.

Kent dog control

In July, Safe Haven was awarded a contract for nearly $830,000 to provide dog control in Kent County. Gryczon said many of the dogs housed in kennels were found in Kent County.

She said Safe Haven is caring for the dogs for seven days, instead of the required five, to give owners more time to find them.

A recent post on Kent County Levy Court’s website lists a new number for Kent residents to call to see if a lost dog has been found.

Since July, Gryczon has been working to secure a property in Kent County to house Kent County strays.

Gryczon said Safe Haven is considering a warehouse in the Little Creek area of Dover, but on Nov. 20, Gryzcon said problems with neighbors must be worked out before a lease can move forward.

“The neighbors are worried about the barking dogs,” Gryzcon said. “But I think it will work out.”

Animal welfare meeting

Sen. Patricia Blevins, D-Elsmere, wrote the animal standards legislation that transferred dog control from the state to the counties.

Blevins said the state’s Animal Welfare Task Force, which has held monthly meetings since August, aims to improve animal control and coordination among the state’s five animal shelters, which include Kent County SPCA, Faithful Friends, Delaware SPCA in Georgetown and Stanton and Safe Haven.

Representatives from each of the shelters, including Gryczon, are on the task force.

“The people on the task force all have different goals, but my goal is for Delaware to become a no-kill state and also to have more funding," Gryczon said. “I just hope the public hearing will be productive, and help move us forward to having more funding for pit bulls and spay and neuter for cats.”

The public hearing is slated for 7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 29, in Senate Chambers of Legislative Hall in Dover.

Blevins said the public hearing is for all residents to share their thoughts on animal protections, dog control and safety standards. The task force aims to improve coordination among animal welfare organizations.

Besides shelter representatives, the task force also includes two state representatives, two state senators, and representatives from the Governor’s Office, the Agriculture Department, and the state veterinary medical association.

Written comments can be sent to Sen. Blevins at Carvel State Office Building, 11th Floor, 820 N. French St., Wilmington, DE 19801. For more information on the hearing, call Carling Ryan at 302-577-8718.


Safe Haven Executive Director Anne Gryzcon and kennel staff member Michael Rowan enjoy some play time with Fannie and her puppies in April 2012. (Photo by: Rachel Swick Mavity)
Sen. Patricia Blevins, D-Elsmere, hopes to improve animal welfare standards in Delaware. (Source: File)
Comments (2)
Posted by: crystal shear | Nov 23, 2012 15:17

  What I Don't understand,,,   State has come up with a Task Force, to help With Animal Issue's 
How ever we have Safe Haven's Director on board,,     Yet When it comes to  Capa Laws  Her shelter
isn't in compliance with them,,,,,   How is that ??
As stated above by Marlene,,,,   Safe Haven is Loaded with Animals to be adopted,  Yet Not open, during
Business hours,   Which is Capa standard along with  Common Sense     They only open Oct 26th on Fri and
Sat,   After the Department Of Agriculture Issued a Violation to them...
I am curious to Know if Every animal is being Checked by a Veterinarian with in 72 hours of arriving in their care??
Is a Veterinarian Signing off on  EVERY rabies given???    This could be a major Health Issue
They sure weren't adopting out Alter animals,,
Watch out Sussex County they have a Bid in for Dog Control ......
Gryszon says the organization is still training its staff.__   How much time do you Need to train,,,  most jobs gives two week training,,,   Dog Contract back in July...   so 4 months and Still not ready ?????
  Gryszon when asked ____could not provide information on the number of adoptions      Wonder why,  either Not organized,  Or could it be   There is a Law  All animals must be Altered before adoption,,,    And Safe Haven's are Not
By providing a number,,   Would tell you  how many  $500.00 fine's they should be facing,?????
Gryszon also hope from the out come of the Meeting to help move them forward to having more funding for pit bulls and spay and neuter for cats.”_____     Each shelter get's  X amount of  Vouchers,    Safe Haven also received a  800,000 donation last Dec 2011 for Medical care  Alone for Animals,,,,    Is that money Gone????   If  they would adjust their adoption fee's to off set  Spay/Neuter,,,  would help....   So is that why Safe haven isn't  Spay/ Neutering  due to lack of
funds ???     Maybe they should ask some of the Small rescue's How they Afford it.....
Why do you need help with Pit Bulls,,,   I thought what you had was  Staffordshire Terrier's ???
If these Dogs are from the Dog Control Contract,,,  Why do you need Funding ???    Isn't Kent County paying
You enough....    Wasn't that the Big Issue,,  On how you ended up with the contract in the First Place
that You were Willing to do the Job for  What Kent County was willing to pay,,,   How ever   Kcspca new
It wasn't enough Money To cover Expense's

Posted by: Barry Wayne Price | Nov 24, 2012 07:51

How many of the 28 employees of Safe Haven are from Sussex and/or Delaware? Was there no one qualified from Delaware that could have been awarded the Executive Directors position? Delaware taxpayer money is involved here and I would like to see it providing jobs for Delaware's unemployed people.

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