CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Cleveland Animal Shelter pickup and drop-off services have been limited to city residents since July 1, and the resulting problems have Bradley County law enforcement and animal rescuers seeking alternative solutions.
“I can charge the owner with animal cruelty, but what can I do about the dog?” Joe Renner, the county environmental officer, recently asked the County Commission.
He said he did not want to leave an animal stranded in a situation in which it was in distress or danger.
“[This] could become a very real problem in the future,” Commissioner Terry Caywood said.
Animal services outside the city were discontinued after the County Commission and the Cleveland City Council could not reach an agreement on the county’s share of the animal control budget.
Commission Chairman Louie Alford said a list of animal rescue groups has been distributed to members of the commission and to the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office.
“That is disingenuous,” Beth Foster of Dixie Pet Underground Railroad said Wednesday. “The animal rescue groups are not intended to replace a shelter. Commissioners either know this already or they need to take time to learn how animal rescue groups work.”
Animal rescuers are telling people who call them with requests to drop off animals to contact their county commissioners instead, Foster said.
Dixie Pet Underground Railroad, The Ark of Cleveland and Exclusively Shelter Pets Inc. — which make up most of the animal rescue group list issued by the Bradley County Commission office — are at capacity and can’t take on more animals, members of those organizations said.
After reviewing a number of contract options last spring, the County Commission voted 9-3 to request a three-year agreement with the city that would eliminate animal pickup outside Cleveland but retain drop-off services for county residents. The option amounted to $167,000 for the 2013-14 fiscal year and was opposed by Commissioners Jeff Yarber, Jeff Morelock and Brian Smith.
The three commissioners and the Cleveland City Council had expressed favor with a $298,000 package that retained both pickup and drop-off services for county residents. That amount accounts for the nearly 60 percent of animals and calls handled by the Cleveland Animal Shelter that originate outside the city and is based on audited numbers from 2012-13.
Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.