published Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

Jonathan Cooper named animal shelter director for Bradley County's SPCA

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    Jonathan "Jack" Cooper is the new shelter director for SPCA of Bradley County.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Jonathan “Jack” Cooper, former animal services supervisor for East Ridge, has been named animal shelter director for the Society for the Prevention to Cruelty to Animals of Bradley County.

Cooper was the only applicant for the job, which was advertised in late December, said Beth Foster, communications director for the organization. He will earn an annual salary of $30,000, she said.

“I believe the new shelter will be a positive, uplifting experience,” Cooper said late Monday. “We have a super-dedicated group of people who live for this cause.”

A former board member of SPCA of Bradley County, Cooper has been serving in a consulting capacity for the group, said Betti Gravelle, president of the organization.

She praised Cooper for his experience with shelter operations and his efforts to reduce euthanasia rates at the East Ridge Animal Shelter.

Cooper and his wife, Dr. Sara Cooper, served as board members for the SPCA of Bradley County until they resigned shortly after their Oct. 6 arrests for public intoxication and disorderly conduct.

He was suspended from his East Ridge animal services supervisor position shortly after the incident and later resigned.

“After 8 years of service to the city of East Ridge, I decided that it was time for me to pursue other endeavors,” said Cooper in a statement issued in late October.

Charges against the couple later were dropped, according to Hamilton County General Sessions Court records.

In December, the Bradley County Commission selected the SPCA to handle animal control services for county residents living outside Cleveland city limits. The group is scheduled to assume those duties this spring.

Not everyone is confident that SPCA of Bradley County will be successful.

Social media pages associated with Animal Care and Control for Cleveland/Bradley County NOW, a group that says it is “deeply concerned about the conditions surrounding animal rescue, care and control in our community,” have challenged the ability of the SPCA of Bradley County to deliver on its promises.

“We do not wish to see SPCA [and related group, Cleveland For a No-Kill City] fail and will not sabotage their efforts,” said Rachel Veazey, an administrator of the group’s Facebook page. “However, we believe this ship is doomed from the start and we will absolutely be watching so that the animals do not suffer one moment longer than necessary.”

The Jan. 5 creation of a page that initially said it was “satirizing” the Animal Care and Control group’s Facebook page, but now says it is responding to SPCA’s detractor, is administered by Foster and animal rescuer Jessica Tharpe.

The page was created as a personal initiative and is not related to any of the animal welfare groups she is associated with, Foster said.

Foster and Veazey both have charged that each other’s pages embrace harassing tactics.

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

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