Cleveland, Tenn., officials concerned over future of Bradley County animal control

Cleveland, Tenn., officials concerned over future of Bradley County animal control

September 24th, 2013 by Paul Leach in Local Regional News

A dog stares from inside a kennel at the Cleveland Animal Control Shelter in Cleveland, Tenn.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Bradley County's search for a nonprofit solution to its animal shelter needs has generated mixed feelings among Cleveland leaders.

The establishment of an animal shelter facility separate from the Cleveland Animal Shelter would be "a duplication of efforts and a waste of city taxpayer money," Cleveland City Councilman Richard Banks said.

"We definitely don't need two shelters," said City Manager Janice Casteel, citing evaluations that indicated that the city's animal shelter could serve all the county's animals.

Until recently, the Cleveland Animal Shelter has provided animal pick-up and drop-off services to Bradley County residents who live outside of city limits according to agreements between the city and county.

Bradley County's quest for its own animal control service began after the Bradley County Commission and the Cleveland City Council failed to reach an agreement on the county's portion of the Cleveland Animal Shelter budget.

Without a new agreement in place on July 1, county residents living outside Cleveland city limits did not have access to animal control services through the city's animal shelter. On Sept. 9, Bradley County and Cleveland reached a temporary agreement under which all animal control services have been restored for six months at the cost of $120,000.

Since that time, an ad hoc committee of Bradley County commissioners has reviewed proposals by The Ark of Cleveland and the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Bradley County for providing an animal shelter and animal pickup services for the county.

In recent meetings, Commissioner Bill Winters expressed his desire for Cleveland to join the county in funding an animal shelter operated by a nonprofit organization.

Such a joint venture is worth the city's consideration, City Councilman Dale Hughes said.

"If we can alleviate some of the responsibilities with the animals, such as the no-kill policy, I think it would be a win-win situation for the county and the city," Hughes said.

Councilman Bill Estes said such an agreement would be "a terrible idea."

"We have a very different mindset on what's acceptable for services," said Estes, stating the issue ultimately was a matter of the county not willing to pay its fair share for services provided by the Cleveland Animal Shelter.

In related business, Vice Mayor Avery Johnson said he had talked with Southeast Tennessee Development District officials about possible interest in creating regional animal shelters in the state.

Regional shelters, he said, would provide relief for counties and municipalities unable to fully fund their own animal control operations.

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