published Sunday, May 25th, 2014

Cleveland City Council eyes closing animal shelter

A puppy stands in his pen at the Cleveland Animal Control Division's shelter in this file photo.
A puppy stands in his pen at the Cleveland Animal Control Division's shelter in this file photo.
Photo by Staff File Photo.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — On Tuesday the Cleveland City Council is expected to continue its discussion on whether to close the city's animal shelter and turn to a private shelter already serving Bradley County.

In a May 12 meeting, Councilman Richard Banks put forth a resolution intended to "maximize the use of municipal resources and to avoid duplication of services" by closing the municipal shelter by an unspecified date.

Banks recommended further discussion of the matter at the Tuesday meeting instead of bringing the measure to a vote.

The plan calls for the retention of city animal control officers, who will deliver animals to a private shelter operated by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Bradley County.

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

According to its $80,000 annual agreement with the county, the SPCA of Bradley County provides animal shelter services to all county residents.

SPCA officials have expressed concern about Banks' proposal, which does not mention forging a separate agreement with the organization or funding through city revenues.

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

In a recent meeting, the SPCA reaffirmed its policy not to accept dogs and cats from "other groups, organizations or agencies" unless those parties have negotiated contracts with the SPCA, Beth Foster, media coordinator for the organization, said in an email.

"The board reiterated that it welcomed the beginning of discussions with any group, organization or agency who wished to contract with SPCA for sheltering of domestic animals," she said.

Cleveland has attempted to reduce its municipal shelter expenditures since its longstanding agreement to provide animal control and sheltering services to Bradley County came to a standstill a year ago.

The loss of the Bradley County agreement, which funded 60 percent of the Cleveland Animal Control budget based on the number of animal pickups and service calls originating outside city limits, represented $325,000 in the 2012-13 fiscal year.

The department's budget calls for an 11.6 percent reduction between personnel and operating cuts in its 2014-15 budget proposal.

The proposed 2014-15 budget for Cleveland Animal Control is $568,686, which represents a $74,000 reduction through the transfer of two staff members to openings in the Public Works Department, City Manager Janice Casteel said.

Cleveland Animal Control personnel expenditures amount to $360,499 in the proposed 2014-15 budget, which includes a shelter director, four animal control officers and a records clerk.

The closure of the city animal shelter has been estimated to save the city another $160,000, police Chief David Bishop said.

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

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