published Thursday, September 4th, 2014

SPCA animal shelter retains contract in Bradley County

Ed Elkins, a former Bradley County commissioner, addresses the Bradley County Commission in his new role as the president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Bradley County.
Ed Elkins, a former Bradley County commissioner, addresses the Bradley County Commission in his new role as the president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Bradley County.
Photo by Paul Leach.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — A second call to end Bradley County's $80,000 annual animal sheltering agreement with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Bradley County failed this week, revealing a narrowly divided County Commission.

An attempt to cancel the SPCA contract by Commissioner Mark Hall Monday evening was derailed and commissioners voted 8-6 to table the matter.

"Additional time is needed to explore more options," said Commissioner Thomas Crye, who made the motion to table Hall's recommendation.

Commission Chairman Louie Alford and Commissioners Dan Rawls, Mike Hughes, Milan Blake, Johnny Mull, Howard Thompson and Robert Rominger supported Crye's measure.

Jeff Yarber, vice chairman of the panel, joined Commissioners Terry Caywood, Charlotte Peak, Bobby Goins, Bill Winters and Hall in opposing Crye.

"The fact that we're still discussing animal control five months after it was implemented is evidence of why we need to dissolve the relationship between SPCA and Bradley County," Hall said.

Conflicts within the SPCA board were made public in recent months following allegations that operations were being undermined by opposing factions of shelter volunteers and Cleveland For a No-Kill City, an animal rescue network.

The no-kill shelter has gone through two full-time directors since it opened in March and recently rebuilt its board of directors for the second time since the organization was founded a year ago.

Operations have improved within the board and the shelter, said Ed Elkins, a former Bradley County commissioner who joined the SPCA board and was elected its president just before the County Commission meeting.

"All the reports I've received, numbers have shown a dramatic turnaround," Elkins said of the shelter's intake, rescue and adoption statistics.

Elkins makes the fourth recent addition to the board. Other new members include Rawls, businessman Perk Evans and school board member Chris Turner.

They join Hall, Sherry Brown, Dr. Michael Guedron and former president Betti Gravelle, the executive director of Dixie Day Spay, a low-cost spay/neuter nonprofit organization.

Commissioners also voted 8-6 to issue a formal reprimand to the organization for a prior breach of contract and to give 30 days to remedy. There was a failed attempt by Crye to table that measure.

The contract violation, previously cited by Gravelle, was made by former shelter director Bobbi Anderson, who said she placed limitations on acceptance of animals in an effort to prevent overcrowding in the no-kill facility.

Caywood, Blake, Mull, Peak, Goins, Hall and Winters supported the measure, put forward by Yarber. A month ago, a similar effort by Yarber failed.

The reprimand is an effort to protect the County Commission after experiencing a repeated cycle of improvements and failures with SPCA, Yarber said.

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

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