Shelter group undeterred by initial rebuff

The Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary of Sussex County suffered a setback last month, but that has not dampened the board members’ resolve to find some centrally located real estate.

Board member Hal Dukes had agreed to donate a 5-acre parcel south of Frankford (north of Lazy Lagoon Road) for the project. However, residents voiced concerns about noise from barking dogs, and Safe Haven Executive Director Marianne Fleetwood pulled the plug.

Dukes lamented that outcome.

“It wouldn’t be a massive operation —about 30 dogs on the site at any one time and about the same number of cats,” he said. “The reason we need five acres of land is because you can’t have a dog pen within 200 feet of the adjacent property line.”

As Dukes pointed out, “You can build chicken houses within 10 feet of a property line — if our animals had beaks and feathers, we’d be in great shape.”

Meanwhile, Safe Haven has donated building designs in hand and the board members have renewed their search for a suitable piece of land, possibly near Georgetown.

Dukes said they hoped to appeal to farmers, particularly people with land that wasn’t well suited for development.

“We don’t want swampy land, of course,” he added, but noted they would need only enough septic for an employee toilet.

While finding someone willing to donate the land would be ideal, Dukes said they would certainly consider a part donated/part purchased deal, or a lease.

“We just want to get started,” he said.

Board member Mary Miranda echoed Dukes’ sentiment.

“We’d like to be accessible, and Frankford or somewhere in that general vicinity seemed like a nice location,” she said. “We’ll go where we have to go, though.”

Miranda noted how many animals were euthanized in Delaware shelters every year — between 18,000 and 22,000.

She herself has adopted a couple of cats at a no-kill shelter in Ocean City, and another two from Bethany Town Cats. “Right after the summer, we always get a deluge of pets that people leave behind,” she pointed out.

Cats being rather prolific, the domesticated parents then roam around producing kittens that become feral.

Miranda said part of the Safe Haven mission would include educating people about spay/neuter programs to avoid that situation.

Both she and Dukes expressed the hope that, if the shelter gets off the ground, people in the community will come out to help socialize the stray animals.

Dukes suggested those activities might dovetail with scouting or after-school programs — a sort of animal husbandry for kids programs, or give college students training to become veterinarians’ assistants some practical experience.

He said the shelter would augment, rather than compete with, the efforts of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) — SPCA workers have to euthanize more animals than they would like, and Safe Haven might help reduce that.

Safe Haven would be a “no-kill” shelter — only very sick or violent animals would be destroyed.

Anyone interested in learning more, or volunteering their time to help get the Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary rolling, can reach Fleetwood at (302) 644-3570.