CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Barring a last-minute agreement between Bradley County and Cleveland, the city's animal shelter will not pick up animals outside city limits nor accept animals from residents who live outside the city after Sunday.
On Wednesday, the Cleveland City Council voted 7-0 to reject a proposal from the county that would reduce its portion of the animal control budget by eliminating pickup services outside city limits for three years. The measure failed in a City Council vote earlier this month, but the Bradley County Commission asked the city to reconsider.
The county's proposal would raise city taxpayers' share of the animal control budget in the second and third years of the agreement, City Manager Janice Casteel said. The county's estimated contribution of $167,000 in the first year would fall sharply thereafter, she said.
Animals from outside the city generally accouns for about 60 percent of the shelter's intake.
Beyond budgetary impacts and taxpayer equity, city leaders said the county's proposal to end animal pickup outside Cleveland would be a major setback to creating a "no-kill community."
"I wish the county would give to us -- as county taxpayers -- how they intend to pick up the animals in the county," Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland said.
Councilman Richard Banks said the county is essentially asking "little old ladies" to pick up animals and bring them into the shelter.
The county's plan, he said, will sentence hundreds of animals to be inhumanely dumped or killed if they cannot be picked up. Banks cited May 2013 animal control figures that stated 135 animals had been picked up outside the city.
By extrapolation, more than 1,600 animals will not have the chance to be rescued and adopted in the course of a year, Rowland said.
Banks said he has not heard any announcement from the Bradley County Sheriff's Office about how or if it plans to train personnel or provide equipment for handling animal pickup calls it may receive.
Bradley County commissioners Jeff Yarber, Jeff Morelock and Brian Smith have expressed favor for a measure that would retain all current animal control services but use audited shelter budgets, instead of the current practice of using projected figures, to calculate the county's contribution. The Cleveland City Council has signaled it would accept such an agreement, estimated to cost the county $298,000 in the coming fiscal year.
Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at email@example.com.