published Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Bradley County no-kill shelter to address capacity concerns

Volunteer Angela Kimsey takes a moment to visit with a cat while she cleans up a the SPCA of Bradley County Animal Shelter.
Volunteer Angela Kimsey takes a moment to visit with a cat while she cleans up a the SPCA of Bradley County Animal Shelter.
Photo by Paul Leach /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The Bradley County Commission has postponed recommending any changes to its agreement with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Bradley County, a private organization that provides no-kill animal sheltering services for county residents.

Commissioners have been considering whether to put limits on the shelter’s acceptance of animals to avoid overcrowding and prevent violations of the $80,000 annual contract.

On Monday, the commission followed advice from Bradley County Attorney Crystal Freiberg to wait for a formal request from the SPCA on the matter.

“The contract was written as it was proposed to us,” Freiberg said. “I recommend that the SPCA submit the changes they want.”

Commissioners Charlotte Peak-Jones and Ed Elkins have recommended that a capacity be established to function as a “trigger” that would allow the shelter to temporarily halt acceptance of animals and still remain in compliance with the agreement.

The agreement with SPCA was intended only to provide “a modicum of animal control,” Elkins said. He said it was not intended to address animal rescue.

Limitations on shelter capacity may be necessary to avoid the liability of having the facility closed because of possible violations of state health regulations.

“There is no magic number,” Freiberg said of shelter animal capacity.

The main state oversight of such facilities basically addresses whether animals are suffering from neglect, she said.

Freiberg recommended that if any new language is introduced into the agreement establishing capacity limits, other language should be included that addresses movement of animals out of the shelter.

Without such language, the animals at the facility possibly could sit there for years, said Freiberg, citing a worst-case scenario.

Possible changes to the county’s agreement with SPCA were recommended by Elkins and Peak-Jones last week after Commissioner Jeff Yarber asked the Bradley County Commission to issue a formal notice of violation of contract.

Both measures, which failed, were driven by recent decisions made by shelter management to not accept animals from county residents in late July, made in response to overcrowding concerns.

The temporary suspension of intake was made to prevent a major outbreak of disease of the facility’s animal population, shelter director Bobbi Anderson said.

The SPCA board voted 4-1 on July 28 to give the shelter 30 days to relieve overcrowding by networking through Cleveland For a No-Kill City.

“We are implementing plans and resources to address the intake violations,” SPCA board president Betti Gravelle said.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Contact him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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