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Safe Haven animals find new homes

By ANDREA FURLONG

Safe Haven of Iowa County has moved to what it hopes is its last temporary location.

Approximately five weeks ago, volunteers from the non-profit animal shelter moved 90 cats and 12 dogs from its former shelter, a barn about five miles east of Williamsburg, to new homes throughout the county. The dogs were sent to foster homes, about 13 cats found new families, while the rest — about 77 felines — were moved about 20 miles southwest to a one-story, white building in Millersburg.

Since it started in a Williamsburg garage in 2005, Safe Haven has had three homes in the past five years. After one year of operation, the animals moved into its former location in Homestead, where they remained for about three and half years, until the owners decided they wanted to sell the property. The shelter’s newest location at 530 Main St., Millersburg, is rent-free, as it is owned by members Tonya and Aaron Grimm, but to director Rinthea Satterlee it is not the permanent future of Safe Haven.

The shelter is trying to raise $100,000 by Sept. 1, so that by Nov. 1 it will have a newly constructed building on its 15 acres three miles south of Williamsburg to move its animals into. Unlike earlier fundraisers, Safe Haven is conducting this one on a smaller scale, requesting a total of 50 people from the community and its organization raise $2,000 each through individual and small group fundraisers. Satterlee said the new fundraising campaign strategy was launched to help those involved be more proactive about Safe Haven’s future.

“We want people to take personal ownership. We want them to be more personally involved, versus a mass capital campaign where you talk to all the rich people in town. We don’t want to do that. We’re a grassroots organization,” she said.

Satterlee also noted the organization doesn’t want to exhaust its regular pool of contributors, which helps to cover items, such as vet bills, which Safe Haven is currently $8,000 behind on.

 “We definitely didn’t want to tap into that because we still need that stream to come in so we can continue to do what we’re doing every month,” she said.

At its new location, cats are separated into about four different quarters, with sick ones and kittens housed separately in isolation units. While the new facility offers features Safe Haven has never had before — a restroom and washer and dryer — it’s still a far cry from the 48x88 foot shelter the organization wants to build one day. Safe Haven’s dream shelter would house up to 100 cats and 20 dogs. It would offer an isolation room, an indoor playpen for dogs, a cat and dog hotel and grooming services. Plus, it would have an office separate from the animals, a feature that Satterlee considers a luxury.

“It’s really hard to work when you have 12 cats on your desk,” she laughed.

The fundraiser to build Safe Haven a permanent shelter is nothing new. It’s chased after an Internet contest, grants and held many fundraisers over the past few years in hopes of raising a minimum of $100,000 to make its dream a reality. Satterlee noted some members of the public question how the shelter can raise $15,000 for an injured dog within a few days, yet struggle for years to acquire building donations. But Satterlee said the two fundraising needs are incomparable.

“When it comes to cruelty, neglect and abandonment, people come up with money. That’s just how it is,” she said.

The shelter’s director can only hope that people will see the need for a shelter that cares for abandoned and neglected animals, but said no matter how long it takes, she does not plan on giving up on the shelter’s future.

“Anyone who knows me and knows my compassion and dedication to animals knows that we’ll do whatever it takes to make sure that doesn’t happen,” she said.

UPDATED June 15, 2010 12:20 PM

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