After months of closure, cleaning and remodeling an aging facility, Safe Harbor Animal Sanctuary reopened their doors Jan. 30. The following day they made their first adoption. Since that time they have adopted out at least a half a dozen animals and have taken in twice that many.
Staff was both excited and tearful to see their first adoption take place. “We’ve waited months to see this, and Romeo is our favorite,” said Pat Coomer, volunteer and assistant manager for Safe Harbor. Romeo made his way into the hearts of a loving young couple who excitedly carried him away to start his new life.
Months following a shut down by authorities, having to relocate dozens cats, and upset within the organization, members say that the new Safe Harbor is back on track and once again in the business of saving animals.
One can hardly deny the changes that have transpired at Safe Harbor since fall of last year. Walking inside the new and improved Safe Harbor, it’s clean, safe, and newly reconditioned. Walls are absent shelving that once provided perching areas for feline residents. The hard to clean structures have been replaced by furniture that is brightly colored, non porous, and easily sanitized. Floors have been stripped and sealed. Outdoor enclosures have been cleaned, sealed, and solid non porous walls now divide each outdoor area. Outer screens have been cleaned and repaired.
Now under new management and without interference from previous manager Alice Wybert, Montica Babers, manager and board president, feels that Safe Harbor will once again become the organization it was in the beginning and was always meant to be. “Alice just tried to save them all and everything got out of hand. As much I would like to save them all, we’re realistic, we can only do what we have the help, space, and funding to do,” said Babers.
Skeptics loom waiting to see if the sanctuary will operate according to state guidelines or if things will take another downhill slide into the mess it had become prior to closing last year. Babers, says that’s not going to happen. “We’ve implemented several new protocols to prevent another disaster like the past from taking place at Safe Harbor, and we’re sticking to them,” said Babers.
Babers is referring to health and conditioning protocols now being practiced to the letter.
“The big things,” says Babers, “are the conditioning period for every cat coming into the building and keeping the population to a number that is manageable.” Babers says she feels those two main factors are what brought Safe Harbor to its knees in the past. “We simply didn’t have enough people to help keep up with our numbers and conditioning protocols were just not being followed. Conditioning new arrivals is a crucial part in making sure that the pet population at Safe Harbor remains in good health.”
“Conditioning” consists of quarantine, sanitation, preventative health measures, observation, treatment of any illness or injury, and socialization. During this 14 day conditioning period each cat will remain in quarantine and will be vetted, vaccinated, and tested for common diseases such as FIV and FLV. Each cat will be monitored closely for illness and behaviors, and properly socialized before they are introduced into one of the four, free-roaming cat rooms. Babers says this period of conditioning is imperative to the overall health of the sanctuary’s entire population and is taken very seriously.
Just one week after reopening their doors, Safe Harbor had taken in 12 cats, enough to fill their conditioning area to capacity. Babers says that no more cats could be taken in until the ones currently in conditioning can be moved into the main cat rooms. Even then Babers says, they intend to limit the cats they house. Guidelines in the consent judgment set forth by the state, months ago, stipulate that up to 25 cats may be housed in each of the four cat rooms at Safe Harbor. Babers says she plans to keep populations much smaller than allowed and at a more manageable number.
“We’ve worked months for this reopening. We worked very hard and passed more than one inspection [by the state] to get to this point. We are doing this right,” said Babers as she looks around Safe Harbor with an obvious sense of accomplishment. The building in which she stood was notably different that the Safe Harbor of recent years.
When asked how Safe Harbor could maintain smaller numbers Babers replied, “People will just have to understand that we only have so much staff, so much space, and so much funding. We will eventually have to tell someone no, or at least, not right now. We have to stick to a population we feel is manageable.”
Knowing there are other alternatives than to surrender an animal to a shelter, Babers says Safe Harbor plans to do what it can to help keep animals in their homes instead of being surrendered. If an owner keeping their animal just isn’t possible, Babers hopes that they will have foster in line to help with overflow from Safe Harbor. Babers also hopes that connections she’s made in the rescue world will help to move cats into other rescues if there happens to be a sudden influx. With the Omega House (the building that once housed FIV and FLV cats) closed and under reconstruction to become an indoor/outdoor dog kennel, Babers also hopes to be able to move FIV and FLV cats to other facilities better equipped to deal with those specific conditions.
The main building is not the only thing that has changed at Safe Harbor. Outside there are only four dog kennels erected and in use. All others have been torn down. It’s uncertain whether or not any additional outdoor kennels will be erected any time soon although reconstruction is turning the Omega House into an indoor/outdoor dog kennel building. There are plans to increase the size of the fenced play yard in the spring.
Currently staffed with only one paid employee, Babers, and a handful of volunteers, Safe Harbor is reaching out to the community for new volunteers that would be willing to help with the animals at Safe Harbor. “There is always something we could use help with,” said Babers. “Volunteers can help with animal care, socialization, ground maintenance, building maintenance, cleaning, assisting at events, and many more tasks.”
Although overall support for Safe Harbor’s reopening has been good, Babers realizes that there are still many in the community that watched last year’s closing and don’t believe that the organization can make another go of it. “That’s why we are having our grand reopening on the 20th. We want people to come out and see for themselves how far we’ve come and see that we mean business. Everyone is welcome. We didn’t work this hard to give up now,” said Babers.
Safe Harbor’s Grand Reopening is scheduled for Saturday Feb. 20 from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. New management, board members, and volunteers will be available to meet with guests, answer questions, and show off the animals and newly renovated facility. Aside from refreshments there will be raffles and plenty of cats and dogs to enjoy the festivities with.
Safe Harbor is located at 359 Cree Lane, Jackson, Mo. Regular hours of operation are 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., seven days per week. Private appointments can be made from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. seven days per week. You can reach Safe Harbor by telephone at (573) 243-9823.
You can find Safe Harbor online at www.safeharboranimals.org or on Facebook.
If you are interested in becoming a foster or volunteering for Safe Harbor Animal Sanctuary, please contact Babers at the aforementioned address or telephone number.
Please note that Safe Harbor Animal Sanctuary is a registered, non profit animal welfare organization and survives on donations as well as income from their thrift store located at 3862 E. Jackson Blvd., Jackson, Mo. 63755. The thrift store is open Tues. to Fri., 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and on Sat. 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The store is closed on Sunday. (573) 243-7387.