published Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Cleveland to consider closing Bradley County animal shelter

Marie McDaniel pets a dog at the Cleveland Animal Shelter. Cleveland City leaders voted on whether to close the city shelter and have its animal control officers deliver animals to SCPA of Bradley County, the private organization that handles animal shelter services for the county.
Marie McDaniel pets a dog at the Cleveland Animal Shelter. Cleveland City leaders voted on whether to close the city shelter and have its animal control officers deliver animals to SCPA of Bradley County, the private organization that handles animal shelter services for the county.
Photo by Staff File Photo.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The Cleveland City Council is considering closing the doors of the municipal animal shelter and relying on a private shelter that Bradley County began using in March.

On Monday, City Councilman Richard Banks presented a resolution that calls for the closure of the city shelter by an unspecified date as a way "to maximize the use of municipal resources and to avoid duplication of services" already being provided by the county through its $80,000 agreement with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Bradley County.

The proposal would entail keeping animal control officers on city streets and having them drop off animals at the SPCA shelter.

"It would make more sense for those officers to bring the animals ... to the new facility," Banks said.

SPCA officials would "love" to do that, but it would require some contract negotiation, SPCA President Betti Gravelle said.

The organization's current agreement with Bradley County only allows for individual county residents -- including Cleveland residents -- to drop off animals at its shelter, but not groups or government agencies, she said.

Key issues for the SPCA are money, staffing and space, Gravelle said.

The SPCA shelter now employs 2 full-time and one part-time paid staff members and relies heavily on volunteers, she said.

The SPCA shelter facilities, which are repurposed juvenile judicial structures on Johnson Boulevard, are at capacity most of the time, she said.

Possible use of the city's animal shelter facility would certainly be a benefit should SPCA and Cleveland reach some kind of agreement, Gravelle said.

Banks' proposal does not mention forging any kind of agreement with SPCA for sheltering. Instead, Banks made a comparison to the county judicial complex, which provides correctional services for both Cleveland and Bradley County law enforcement.

City residents, through their county taxes, already pay for half of the county's agreement with SPCA, he said. If more money is needed from city residents, the county only needs to increase funding to the organization.

"We didn't sign on for this," said Gravelle, who reiterated that SPCA's agreement with the county was limited to animals dropped off by individuals and not municipalities or groups.

It has been estimated that Cleveland Animal Control will pick up more than 1,600 animals from within city limits in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, according to department projections.

Police Chief David Bishop previously estimated that closing the Cleveland Animal Shelter could save the city $160,000 annually.

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

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