What Happened to the Dogs at Safe Haven in Delaware?

A troubling situation developed in Delaware yesterday and more information is needed.  I am asking for help from readers if they come across any additional media reports or press releases from relevant parties regarding this story today.

The scattered facts, as I understand them:

Delaware has a law called the Companion Animal Protection Act (CAPA) which requires shelters to give at least 2 business days’ notice to rescuers before killing any healthy/treatable animal.

The Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary in Delaware was set to close on November 30. I do not know the reason why.  They previously held an animal control contract but recently lost it. Safe Haven reportedly asked the ASPCA last month to help shut down the shelter in an orderly manner and ASPCA agreed.

Suddenly yesterday, the closing of Safe Haven got moved up – to yesterday. I do not know the reason why.

Safe Haven reportedly posted a comment on its Facebook page last night about what may be the unlawful killing of dogs there:

“Some dogs, due to severe behavior issues, were such a threat to other animals or humans, that they were unsuitable for adoption,” the statement said. “Some dogs were humanely euthanized.”

The Safe Haven Facebook page has since been deleted.

The News Journal also reports:

It’s not clear how many dogs remained at Safe Haven until this week, because the shelter did not post intake statistics on its website for the third quarter of 2013, which the state’s Companion Animal Protection Act mandates shelters do.

The law also requires shelters to maintain “a registry of organizations willing to accept animals for the purpose of adoption,” and are not supposed to euthanize any animal if organizations on the registry are willing to accept it.

[Former Safe Haven volunteer Karli] Swope said rescue groups she is familiar with had not received notices from Safe Haven indicating it was considering euthanizing any of its dogs.

The Sussex Countian spoke with several area rescuers who showed up at Safe Haven yesterday to pull dogs.  They claim Safe Haven officials had given them permission to come to the facility and save dogs.  But when they arrived, they found the ASPCA’s giant truck and a hostile environment:

However these people were turned away by the ASPCA, who eventually called the Delaware State Police and reported the prospective adopters were trespassing on private property.


Speculations surrounding whether the ASPCA was euthanizing the remaining dogs onsite were discounted by Capt. Sean Moriarty of DSP Troop 4 in Georgetown. Moriarty said he saw the dogs inside a large ASPCA truck, and they were all alive.

“I’m not sure exactly where they’re going; mostly out of state. Some are going to a facility in the state, but we don’t know where,” Moriarty said on Thursday at Safe Haven.

There were an unknown number of dogs, possibly 20, at Safe Haven at the time ASPCA locked the doors and called police to keep rescuers out.  I haven’t seen any reports indicating what ASPCA did with the dogs.

I am not an attorney but it appears to me that possibly both Safe Haven and the ASPCA may have violated Delaware’s CAPA law in the handling of dogs at the facility.  I hope some clarifications and additional facts come to light today and that the remaining dogs are safe.  I further hope the appropriate authorities will investigate to determine if Safe Haven and/or the ASPCA should be charged with violations of Delaware’s CAPA law.

(Thanks Karen for alerting me to this story.)

53 thoughts on “What Happened to the Dogs at Safe Haven in Delaware?

  1. Disturbing. As much as I’d like to give ASPCA the benefit of the doubt; sometimes there is an arrogance about the things they do and the way they do them . . . Why would the A be so hostile/uncommunicative/etc about this if what they were doing was legitimate?? Any why not respond to requests to identify how many dogs they took, and to where? Disturbing.

    1. I’ve worked some with the A on legislative issues and try to give the larger organizations benefit of the doubt. BUT, this one? I’ve lost all respect for them and HSUS!

  2. You have the facts right. The Delaware CAPA was violated by the ASPCA.

    Safe Haven is a No Kill shelter that failed. There are many reasons for that failure, but it comes down to gross mismanagement, a failure by the Board of Directors to raise money, and a failure to implement the No Kill Equation. (I was on the Board from July 2009 and resigned in July 2012 when it because clear that I could help the animals more by exposing the ongoing disaster – dogs starved to half their body weight, misappropriation of $819,000, an employees whistle-blower report)

    The Board announced Safe Haven would close in August, September and finally on Nov. 30. The community was promised that the dogs would be available for adoption until Nov. 30, and yet suddenly yesterday, all the dogs were taken away by ASPCA.

    Before any dog is killed in Delaware, a notice must go out to the rescue group registry for each individual animal. No notices were sent. Hetti Brown, the Director of new state Animal Welfare Office, was begged to help yesterday. She was in hiding. She was formerly the HSUS rep in Delaware, so perhaps she is comfortable with rescues that result in killing dogs, but she had the responsibility to ensure compliance with the law and she did not.

    I have been begging for help in Delaware every since the ASPCA took over the building. I posted a number of times on the FB pages of Nathan Winograd, No Kill Revoultion, and No Kill Nation. No response. All my pleas for help ignored. I am shocked by the lack of concern in the No Kill community.

    Grass Roots Rescue was finally given permission to pull 5 dogs yesterday morning by one of the remaining two Board members. Rescue groups without “brick and mortar facilities” had been turned away for months. My husband went to pick up the two dogs he was transporting to safety and he was threatened with arrest by ASPCA, as were the other transporters. People who had come to adopt dogs were turned away.

    We are pressing the state for answers.

    If anyone wants more information, please contact me at info@nokilldelaware.org

      1. Sorry for the copying mistake. Here is the update from the local newspaper, the Sussex Countian. -19 dogs were killed yesterday, according to the ASPCA. http://www.sussexcountian.com/article/20131114/NEWS/131119880

        Here’s the Sussex Countian FB UPDATE:

        We have received more details from the ASPCA:
        > There were 105 dogs sheltered at Safe Haven when the ASPCA arrived on Oct. 16. Since then, the ASPCA assisted in placing 86 dogs, which include adoptions and relocation to other shelters and rescue groups.
        > Nineteen dogs were humanely euthanized.
        > On November 14, the remaining 22 dogs at Safe Haven were transported to shelters and rescue groups throughout Delaware, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire and New Jersey where they can be housed, cared for, and eventually made available for adoption. Additionally, two dogs were adopted directly from Safe Haven.
        > Safe Haven closed on November 14, after successfully transporting the remaining dogs

  3. Never heard about “unadoptable” dogs until now. They could have reached out to groups with experience in rehab ;( So Sad

    1. Here is the link to the admission by Safe Haven that they killed dogs. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=758689820813749&set=a.425391580810243.118402.175302099152527&type=1&theater
      Now the Safe Haven FB page has been taken down. On the No Kill Delware FB page, I copied many of the angry and anguished comments by people (see post below link above) There are also photos of the ASPCA trucks on NKD. And photos of the dogs who were being networked.
      There is great anger and anguish in Delaware. We are devastated by the killing of our dogs by the ASPCA and the failure of the state to stop what was happening. We were calling the Governor, the state Animal Welfare Office, ect. all day. They did nothing to save the dogs and ensure compliance with CAPA.

      1. I am unclear on what you are referring to here:

        “We are devastated by the killing of our dogs by the ASPCA”

        Is it your understanding ASPCA killed the dogs that Safe Haven posted about on its FB page? Or something else?

      2. Yes, it would have been the ASPCA that killed dogs. There was no Safe Haven staff left. There were two Safe Haven Board members left, no staff at all. Most volunteers had been banned, and it wouldn’t have been them, of course. The one shelter that kills in Delaware – Kent County SPCA – refused to “clean up Safe Haven’s mess.” It was the ASPCA.

      3. Is it known how many dogs were killed yesterday and who they were?

        Also, I haven’t seen any mention made of cats so I’m guessing Safe Haven didn’t have any. Does anyone know for sure?

        On Fri, Nov 15, 2013 at 10:34 AM, YesBiscuit!

      4. We don’t know how many dogs were killed. We think there were 23 dogs there yesterday but are not sure. One thing we know for sure is that 5 dogs went to Faithful Friends yesterday – a No Kill shelter in DE. We also know from Safe Haven’s FB announcement that dogs were killed – how many is unknown. It could only have been ASPCA that killed them. We are quite sure that no vets in Delaware were willing to kill the dogs – it would have been a PR disaster for them. Delaware’s only shelter that kills was unwilling to kill the dogs, refusing to “clean up Safe Haven’s mess.”
        The 86 cats at Safe Haven were saved by the interim director on the night she quit in July. She moved them all to Josie’s Place Cat Rescue in the night because she felt it was urgent. The Safe Haven Board sent the state police to my door to investigate because I posted that the cats were now safe, having gotten a text in the middle of the night after the cats were removed. The Safe Haven Board asserted it was a theft, but never took action against the interim Director.

  4. The volunteer run Facebook page states that several of the kennels were marked for transport with the destination locations in Maine, Vermont, New Jersey and Delaware, but several were also left unmarked. The volunteers are asking that we keep an eye out for the SH dogs on those organizations websites and to please notify them. The volunteer page is titled “Hope for Safe Haven de Adoptable Dogs”

  5. You can’t trust the ASPCA…they seem to love to kill animals. The CEO makes huge amounts of money and you see in order to keep their jobs there must be dogs to ‘rescue’ and kill.
    They kill any dog that they don’t feel is perfect and won’t work with any issues. They have lots of money but apparently very little compassion, IMHO.
    They opposed Oreo’s Law and killed Oreo when there was a rescue waiting. IMHO they do not trust foster based rescued and prefer dogs shut up in kennels all the time.
    Such a tragedy and it all could have been prevented.

  6. Jessica Crompton, Diane Meier was one of the people who caused this horrific disaster to happen at Safe Haven. Diane Meier and the previous executive director started hoarding dogs at privately owned kennels in 2011, some of those dogs were still at Safe Haven up until this past month. She sounds like a reliable source but diversion is her favorite tactic, she tries to keep people from thinking about how SHE helped kill dogs. Please visit the website http://www.citizenstosavesafehaven.info for the TRUTH, not her version of it.

    1. We have a lot of people in Delaware who oppose CAPA and the No Kill movement and since I do the No Kill Delaware blog and coordinate the FB page with 2,400+. I am attacked constantly, as evidenced above. I’m used to it. It’s been going on for years.

      1. The only thing that has been going on for years are your lies to the public. It doesn’t matter how many likes you have on your page, you are still a MAJOR participant in the horrific acts that took place at Safe Haven from beginning to end. NO ONE wants animals to be killed but NO ONE wants them to suffer like you made dogs suffer. YOU KILLED the dogs yesterday, you may not have put the needle in but you caused this by your lies to the Kent County Levy Court so you go get that contract. Just listen to the audio on this video, nothing was going to stand in YOUR WAY of getting that contract for Safe Haven even though you knew they were FAR FROM equipped to do so. YOU DEPOSITED the $819,000.00 that was donated for a medical wing WHERE IS THAT MONEY DIANE??? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAQvFsIsIwQ Listen to this video carefully, the lies come out.

      1. We support No Kill, but not No kill extremism. No, we don’t support forcing a dog to live who is suffering in pain, medicated to the point where they defecate on themselves because they are in a comatose state unable to move. We don’t support dogs being isolated in a kennel, FOR YEARS, to the point of no human contact where they lose their spirit and go kennel crazy. We support the No Kill programs that promote aggressive spay/neuter programs, adoption programs and educating the public about the overpopulation problems and overcrowding in shelters. We support ANYONE who gives all they can to improve the lives of all companion animals and leave the egos and agendas behind. We welcome anyone, who supports this, to join our newly founded group. Thank you.

      2. Don’t be stupid and dishonest. No Kill, the No Kill Equation, doesn’t incluslde denying euthanasia to animals who are medically suffering and hopeless. No Kill Equation DOES include active, effective adoption programs, and enrichment and socialization for the animals while the are in the shelter. It includes transferring animals not doing well in one setting (e.g., a shelter kennel) to a setting where she’ll do better (e.g., a foster home.)

        What it doesn’t include is killing an animal because being kenneled is Worse Than Death.

    1. I do the No Kill Delaware Facebok page with help from Karli Swope. I was on the Board of Safe Haven from 2009 until July 2012. Karli was a volunteer and then part-time Adoption Coordinator at Safe Haven until this past August. Both of us have been attacked by pro-kill people in Delaware,. It comes with the territory. Karli is the founder/director of Grass Roots Rescue, which tried to pull 5 dogs yesterday (my husband was there to help with transport). She is quoted in the News Journal article today http://www.delawareonline.com/article/20131114/NEWS/311140106/Safe-Haven-no-kill-shelter-says-euthanized-dogs

    2. Well, first she went on with a fake name of Jan Randolph, proven. Then she decided to post her real identity after she was asked to leave the Safe Haven Board. So it’s now Diane Meier and NOT Jan Randolph. Many true facts on the website http://www.citizenstosavesafehaven.info. She will always claim that people who challenge her are “KIllers” “kooks” etc but in reality the people who challenge her are demanding the truth and want only the best for the animals. We don’t want to see dogs suffer in excruciating pain or pull all their teeth so they can’t bite, but she has and now she has to live with the choices she made. Unfortunately her way of dealing is to discredit the people who are actually saving lives and helping animals.

      1. Can you please delete the long comment above that was a copying mistake by me? Thank you.

        Also, is it your policy to keep vicious personal attacks on people on your blog such as the ones being made on me by the Delaware Animal Advocacy Guild. Nobody in Delaware knows who that group is.

        Here is our Community Memory wall for the 19 dogs killed by the ASPCA and Safe Haven. https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.759303990752332.1073741835.175302099152527

  7. One thing I’ve learned about this whole Safe Haven/ASPCA tragedy is you really need to watch whom you trust. At face value, their intentions may seem sincere, but watch out, for some of those also have their own personal agenda. Very sad. This tragedy could have been avoided IF Safe Haven would allowed the Delaware No-Kill Alliance ( https://www.facebook.com/pages/Delaware-No-Kill-Alliance/154364134762887 ) to take over.

    Shirley, be careful what you believe. Talk to some of the volunteers that were there up until the end. You can find them on the Hope for Safe Haven DE Adoptable dogs page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hope-for-Safe-Haven-De-Adoptable-Dogs/221855434651116. Once they heal from all the pain, they may be willing to share their story with you.

    1. The only thing I know at this point is that some dogs were killed, then rescuers came to save other dogs, ASPCA called police on them and took the dogs away. No one knows where. State law may have been violated.

      1. True, the state law WAS violated and our Attorney General has been/ is investigating Safe Haven. The investigation includes past and present board members, which includes past board member, Diane Meier. Yesterday’s events will now be added to the investigation.


  9. In the comments above, the entity called Delaware Animal Advocacy Guild calls out a couple folks who were apparently involved in the running of Safe Haven, going so far as to call these people liars, and saying the Safe Haven people were apparently corrupt and unable to run the facility properly.

    Who exactly is Delaware Animal Advocacy Guild? I visited the entity’s website, which did not reveal much. There doesn’t appear to be a human name associated with the group.

    If one organization is going to call out another organization’s people for being less than transparent, is it too much to ask for that organization to exhibit transparency as well?

    All claims of malfeasance aside, dogs do appear to have been killed in violation of Delaware state’s CAPA law. I find that incredibly sad, and I worry that nothing will be done to prevent something similar from happening in the future, law or no law.

    1. I too have that fear. CAPA is supposed to protect animals from being killed at the whim of any shelter director in the state. No one is above the law, even if they trucked in a fancy rig from NYC.

      1. We are a newly founded group with members that were in the group Citizens to Save Safe Haven/Citizen Watchdogs for the Animals of Delaware. Actually our first meeting is next Saturday so we are sorry we don’t have our website up to standards, yet. We will be posting our founders/ directors shortly after the meeting.
        Please visit the link to see what we have been dealing with for years to try to end the suffering of animals that were at Safe Haven. Thank you. https://www.change.org/petitions/attorney-general-of-delaware-remove-the-board-of-directors-of-safe-haven

      2. Never mind the website, you could simply state your “founders/directors” here and now. You could start by providing your own name. It’s the very least that would be appropriate, considering the person who came on her previously gave her name and you’ve been using it ever since to call her a hoarder, etc.

  10. I learned quickly that Safe Haven was a crock when I tried contacting them for 3 days, in May 2013 about needing help catching a injured cat. They erased all of my posts on their FB page, wouldn’t return my calls. Finally I received 1 message on FB that said I needed to catch him, take him to the KCSPCA and hope for the best. Which we all know means he would have immediately been put to sleep. So I hope the person who told me that one day comes across this message. I DID CATCH HIM, GOT HIM VETTED, HE’S 1 NOW, HEALED WONDERFUL AND IS ABSOLUTELY A WONDERFUL KITTY NAMED GRACIN!!

  11. Disappointed (but not surprised) with the ASPCA and whoever from Safe Haven was responsible for turning away the rescuers and adopters. Also can’t help but be disappointed in the State Police for not taking up for the dogs.

  12. There are 3 dogs at Delaware humane society.. 3 dogs at faithful friends.. and 1 in jersey.. and the remainder are in shelters in Vermont and new Hampshire. I know GRR was taking out 5.. I was going to pull 1 (the one I was going to take got pulled last minute to DHA).. there was someone there for 2 more.. (one got pulled last minute to DHA).. one was there to pick up one girl.. and I know there were at least 2 people interested in pulling out one of the girls who go put down.. in place of the 2 that went to DHA.. 2 others could have gone in their place.. that right there before 11:30 could have saved 12 dogs.. :/ I am entirely sure.. 7 dogs could have been rehomed by the end of the week.. while the others that got transferred to rescues.. could have still be transferred :/ Its a shame it all had to come down to this..

  13. We now have hope that action will be taken. People on the No Kill Delaware Facebook page were asked to write all state legislators and the Governor about the violation of CAPa. Our Delaware state Senator Karen Peterson, respected throughout Delaware as an outstanding legislator, wrote this response:

    “I have already requested that the Attorney General’s Office conduct an investigation into possible violations of Title 3, Delaware Code, Section 8004, by Safe Haven Animal Shelter. Failure to comply with the provisions of the law is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in prison and a $2,300.00 fine.

    I cannot imagine why nineteen dogs were destroyed when there were rescue groups there who were prepared to take the dogs.
    Sen. Karen Peterson “

    This gives us great hope that action will be taken. We need CAPA to be enforced.

    We are incredibly disappointed that Hetti Brown, the new Director of the state’s Animal Welfare Office, could not be reached on Nov. 24 when so many of us placed desperate calls to her. She is supposed to provided oversight of the shelters to ensure compliance with CAPA. Since it was passed in 2010, it has not been enforced at all. Hetti took the position at this newly created state agency two weeks ago. She was formerly the DE rep. for HSUS, which dumped 23 dogs at Kent County SPCA in DE and evaluated 21 of them as aggressive, which means they were likely killed. The dogs were from an out-of-state dog-fighting bust. Hetti Brown never responded to questions, although she wrote me and said that she would. http://www.nokilldelaware.org/?p=2733

    Info. about the new state Animal Welfare Office: http://www.nokilldelaware.org/?page_id=2595

    1. Sorry, I meant Nov. 14 (not Nov. 24) above, when ASPCA killed the dogs. We tried to reach Hetti Brown and her boss, but could not. Calls to the Governor were taken by aides. But nothing was done.

  14. From all the bickering, name calling and agenda’s isn’t it the point that it is the dogs who should be the only agenda? How is all this petty arguing helping the dogs. The “I have to be right syndrome”. In no way is your Drama helping what happened to those dogs killed and The ones sent to possibly other kill shelters. More energy should be used on helping them.

  15. It will be interesting to hear from the “we can save them all” crowd how they are going (if they even do) to interpret this.

  16. Methan- If your numbers are correct- then I hope the ASPCA is charged with 19 counts- one for each dog they murdered. I also hope they are also charged with not advertising to rescues to save all the dogs. This sounds like Caboodle tactics all over again.

  17. I found out there was more that was there to be pulled. I also found out 1 that was wanted was being pulled by grr but I’m thinking they would have tried to pull another. I was told last night (since I lived two hours away) that my boy would have been pulled right there for me. My heart is broken… I really really just can’t understand. Another new interesting set of info came out last night… Texts were recieved from someone who was linked with dept of agriculture in de…. And stated that it was together with save haven and ASPCA.. That THEY did it… If that is the 100% truth… If the congress doesn’t get involved.. There is going to be bigger issues them there is now

  18. Think about it: police involved, carefully orchestrated to confuse the public until it was done…it HAS to be more than just some at Safe Haven. I do believe we have a coverup here, and it’s reaching beyond the Safe Haven Facility…others are complicit. For some reason, it’s disappearing from the radar in local TV and in papers. Why? It’s being suppressed??? That usually happens only when blame goes high up. And the POLICE? Good lord, that’s a huge tip-off. They are municipal employees.

    STOP THE BICKERING AND FINGER-POINTING. Let’s (finally) stop blaming, and counter-blaming, and FIX it. We start with calling attention to this and putting pressure to find out WHO is involved and get them properly prosecuted. But I know the public has to be educated. I began my own little “Comfort Cupboard for Shelter Pets” last year. I took contributions of bedding, food, etc. to all 3 local shelters that I had collected. When I asked the Library, the Post office, and several other public places to agree to be collection sites for me, none would. OK… here’s an idea: Hold a candle-light vigil somewhere and get as many people as we can to come out…invite the press so we can all have a chance to express our concerns. Let’s TRY to come together for the sake of the animals. Until we get the public involved, it’s never going to change. Let’s keep communicating..ALL of us, and try to stick to the subject at hand…NEVER AGAIN should this happen. LENNIELE4@gmail.com.

    If the idea of the vigil gets any takers, let me know. I’ll be there. If we can agree on a time and a place, we can then all post on our Facebook pages to get support. Best not to ruin it by bringing in these personal attacks. We need to come together for the sake of our helpless animals. Blessings, Lennie

  19. Mark Barone painted the Safe Haven 19, which means that they have been included in his wonderful memorial project for dogs killed in shelters http://www.anactofdog.com
    Thank you, Mark and Marina, for reaching out to our community to help us heal. Volunteers and employees who knew the dogs are so grateful to see these amazing paintings.
    Here is what is on Mark’s FB page:
    “Please share!!!
    19 beautiful, healthy and adoptable bully breed dogs-killed at the hands of Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary and the ASPCA, on the night of November 13th, 2013. Read the wonderful descriptions of these dogs, by the shelter staff and volunteers, (who knew them very well) and ask how it could be possible to then do a 180 and deem them to be the complete opposite and have all 19 of them killed. The rescue groups and people wanting to adopt them, lined up outside on the morning of the 14th, only to be met with the police. The ASPCA said they would stay and help with adoptions until November 30th, giving plenty of time for all dogs to be rescued. What happened next, was a shocker to everyone who had loved and cared for the sweet 19…they decided to leave early and kill the 19 instead! An Investigation is underway, until the truth be told.”

  20. Documents, photos (evidence) of abuse, cruelty and neglect were sent to appropriate government organizations and NOTHING was done. There will never be any accountability and justice for these poor animals and what they had to endure at “Safe Haven”.

  21. Failing murders!!!! I heard about this all the way in Baltimore from a very prominant petson in the community..
    The wrong peolle in charge with excuses.. No kill is no kill..

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