Memorial for Safe Haven 19

by Diane Meier

I reserved this page as a memorial page for the Safe Haven 19.   The memory album that I had put on the No Kill Delaware Facebook page is below.

It’s painful to discuss, but I feel it’s important to address Safe Haven here.  It was a part of my experience in Delaware, although I didn’t include anything about it in my book.  The lesson from Safe Haven is that calling a shelter no kill is not enough to ensure it’s success.  There has to be a real commitment to implement all of the elements of the No Kill Equation, which is carefully described on the No Kill Advocacy Center website.  

Safe Haven was a no kill animal shelter that failed about nine months after the shelter director was fired.  I had served on the Board for 3 years and resigned about 18 months before the shelter went bankrupt.  It was a tragedy for the community and for the 19 dogs who could have been saved but were killed by the ASPCA and remaining Safe Haven Board members.  

The closure of Safe Haven and killing of the 19 dogs was one of the most painful experiences in my life.  I had worked almost full-time as a Board member at trying to make Safe Haven a success from 2009 to 2012.  After I resigned, I tried to reach out to the community with the my blog and in the media about the problems that needed solving, but it was to no avail.    I’ve included some of the articles in the media here on the website. 

The 19 dogs could have been saved if rescue groups had been allowed to pull them but for some reason the Safe Haven policy was to prohibit that.  The decision was that only groups with a facility could have animals.  It is essential that shelters allow legitimate rescue groups pull animals.  It is a key element of the No Kill Equation, as defined by the No Kill Advocacy Center.  In addition, the Delaware Shelter Standards law mandates that no animal is killed until he/she has been offered to a rescue group.  The ASPCA policy was a violation of that law that was swept under the rug by statements that the 19 dogs were all “aggressive.”  Volunteers who knew the dogs dispute that.  In fact on the day that ASPCA left Safe Haven, the word got out to the community and there were rescue groups at the door trying to save the last dogs, but it was too late.  The dogs had been killed already.   

After the 19 dogs were killed, I blogged about the tragedy and posted on the No Kill Delaware Facebook page.  Mark Barone contacted me about painting the 19 dogs in his amazing project An Act of Dog.  I believe that those paintings helped the community mourn the 19 dogs and I am so grateful to Mark Barone for his art.