Cleveland, Bradley County leaders to discuss animal shelter concerns

Cleveland, Bradley County leaders to discuss animal shelter concerns

May 28th, 2014 by Paul Leach in Local Regional News

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

Photo by Staff File Photo/Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Cleveland leaders have postponed talking about the possible closure of the city's animal shelter until they can meet with their Bradley County counterparts.

On Tuesday, Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland said he is waiting on county leaders' response to a May 20 letter he sent requesting a joint discussion of "mutual issues to benefit all our residents."

Sheltering of animals and a flood study were mentioned as "urgent things" in his letter.

At a May 12 meeting, City Councilman Richard Banks recommended that Cleveland shut down operations at its municipal shelter and instead have city animal control officers deliver animal pickups to the private shelter that has contracted services with Bradley County.

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

The private shelter, which is operated by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Bradley County, allows all county residents to drop off animals, according to its $80,000 annual agreement.

Banks' proposal does not mention any kind of contractual relationship between Cleveland and the private organization.

The SPCA board recently reaffirmed its policy not to accept domestic animals from "other groups, organizations or agencies" except through negotiated agreements, Beth Foster, SPCA media coordinator, said in an email.

The board, however, "welcomed the beginning of discussions" with anyone wishing to contract sheltering services, Foster said.

The city has estimated saving $160,000 if it closes its shelter, police Chief David Bishop said.

Closing the shelter will be a move away from recent policy changes intended to tighten the city's control over the future of animals that are rescued from Cleveland Animal Control.

Only a month ago the City Council approved new requirements that called for rescue groups to provide documentation of spay/neuter status and final placement of animals pulled from the Cleveland Animal Shelter.

The City Council's support for the new measures was an attempt to avoid having Cleveland shelter animals again ending up with a rescue group like The Puppy Patch of Morristown, Tenn., former shelter board officer Dr. Robert Taylor said.

A mid-February raid on the feces-filled Puppy Patch resulted in more than 60 counts of animal cruelty charges against its owners.

The Puppy Patch received seven dogs and 15 puppies from the Cleveland Animal Shelter through Dixie Day Spay of Cleveland, Foster had said. She represents that organization in addition to SPCA of Bradley County and Cleveland For a No-Kill City.

Dixie Day Spay has yet to submit a new agreement to pull animals from the shelter, but it may in the future "if intake warrants the need for it," Foster said.

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