Decommissioned crematorium reflects Brandywine Valley SPCA’s lifesaving impact

GEORGETOWN – A grisly reminder of animal euthanasia is a thing of the past at the Georgetown campus of Brandywine Valley Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Walt Fenstermacher, Brandywine Valley SPCA Director of Operations for Georgetown, pauses momentarily after disconnecting the pipe in the  decommissioning of the former crematorium.

Amid playful puppies, children, staff and volunteers, the Brandywine SPCA ceremoniously decommissioned the campus crematorium Thursday.

“This was here from the previous organization that had this building that we took over last July,” said Maggie Lyon, Brandywine Valley SPCA’s statewide director of development.

The decommissioning reflects the lifesaving impact the BVSPCA has made in Sussex County since taking responsibility for the lost dogs of Delaware starting in late 2015.

The BVSPCA acquired the Georgetown shelter off DuPont Boulevard in July of 2017.

Since BVSPCA’s acquisition, the Georgetown campus moved from an overcrowded shelter with a high euthanasia rate to a modern no-kill shelter contributing to the organization’s 96-percent live release rate in 2017.

“We’re really trying to start turning a new chapter to turn what once was an over-crowded shelter into a modern-day facility,” said Walt Fenstermacher, BVSPCA’s director of operations for Georgetown. “We believe that the space that used to house the crematorium can be better used and better purposed for a community center to really help educate the children that are going to be the next generation of pet parents, so that they know what responsible pet ownership looks like and that they know that the Brandywine Valley SPCA is going to be here for them at the start when they are children and when they are ready to adopt.”

Mr. Fenstermacher had the task of disconnecting the crematorium’s gas line “so that machine can never be used again …”

The decommissioning ceremony marks the start of converting the former crematorium space to a community center used for humane education and training. It will house special events, such as the shelter’s birthday party program and its week-long summer camp – Critter Camp.

Jalynn Jewell, 8, and Colton Searcey, 1, check out an adoptable pup with their mom Kim Searcey.

Held in late July and early August, Critter Camp is four one-week camp sessions for kids ages 7-12.

“The community center in part houses and facilitates our week-long summer camp for kids. They interact with shelter pets and learn what value shelters bring to the community,” said Mr. Fenstermacher. “Then, we also educate them about responsible pet ownership: spay, neuter, vaccination. And we bring in guest speakers from different fields, whether it is a trainer or a veterinarian and make it as much fun as we can for the kids. They really enjoy it.”

In 2017, Brandywine Valley SPCA statewide achieved more than 13,000 placements, mostly cat and dogs.

BVSPCA also has a campus in New Castle, an everyday adoption center in Dover, a cat adoption center at the Rehoboth Pet Smart and an everyday adoption center for cats and dogs at Pet Smart in Dover.

There are other ongoing upgrades at the Georgetown campus, including expansion of the low-cost veterinary clinic and improvements to the cat housing.

The decommissioned crematorium will be removed by professionals. “We’re allowing them to scrap or re-purpose it,” Mr. Fenstermacher said. “We didn’t have any use for it. We’re just happy to get rid of it.”

Georgetown campus volunteers Ruth Dysard, left, and Pat West, right, join Brandywine Valley SPCA Community Engagement Coordinator Meg Searcey in showcasing three puppies.

About the Brandywine Valley SPCA

Founded in 1929, the Brandywine Valley SPCA is the first open admission no-kill shelter in Pennsylvania and Delaware. In 2017, the BVSPCA cared for more than 13,000 stray, owner-surrendered, wayward owned, and abused and neglected animals while achieving a 96-percent live release rate.

The BVSPCA provides animal protective services for Chester County and much of Delaware County in Pennsylvania, and it holds a five-year contract with the Delaware Office of Animal Welfare to provide state-wide animal services for dogs.

Animals are placed through four adoption centers: the West Chester Campus, the New Castle Campus, the Georgetown Campus, and a PetSmart® Everyday Adoption Center in Dover.

In addition, the BVSPCA provides families with safety net and low-cost veterinary services at its three clinic locations: the Malvern Animal Health Center, the New Castle Animal Health Center and the Georgetown Animal Health Center.

To contact the BVSPCA Georgetown campus, call 516-1004.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at

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