No-kill animal shelter sought for Cleveland, Tenn.

No-kill animal shelter sought for Cleveland, Tenn.

July 1st, 2012 by Randall Higgins in News

Gavyn Lett, 4, takes a closer look at a cat at the Cleveland Animal Control Division's shelter Thursday. A fund usually used to supplement adoption costs for the Cleveland Animal Control Division has been slashed, causing a backlash as fees have doubled. Also, a local group has begun to advocate to make the local shelter a "no-kill" shelter by 2017.

Photo by Jake Daniels /Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- The local animal shelter should be a no-kill facility, a new advocacy group says.

The goal of Cleveland For A No Kill City is to have no animals euthanized at the shelter by 2017. The shelter is operated through the Cleveland Police Department's animal control division.

But city officials say a no-kill facility would require more space and money than the current shelter on Hill Street.

The group is not asking for more city or Bradley County money, said Beth Foster, a member of the Animal Control Advisory Board and member of the new organization. The money spent now to kill animals and bury them at the landfill could be used for no-kill operations, she said.

"Our rescuers are full, and we can't take any more [animals]," Foster said.

So two weeks ago they got together and posted photos of shelter dogs and cats on their Facebook pages.

"By the next morning we had people calling to adopt," she said.

So they organized six teams of two people each to photograph the animals every day and post them on Facebook.

Now about 1,100 people are on the Facebook page, mostly from Bradley and Hamilton counties, Foster said.

"Things have happened so fast, we may have to reassess our goal about 2017," she said.

The animal control division is working with the volunteers, Foster said.

"It's not that we don't have a heart for animals," City Manager Janice Casteel said, but a no-kill shelter would have to be larger.

"We can't be at capacity when we leave the shelter for the day, because they might have animals to pick up overnight," she said.

"It's always been a dream to raise private funds and move to a larger facility," Casteel said. "But when we are using tax dollars, our scope has to be very narrow."

Gene Smith, animal control division director, said "it would be great" if the group could obtain some private funding, especially to care for owner-surrendered animals.

For June, the number of owner-surrendered animals at the shelter was 347, compared with 149 strays picked up, Smith said.

The owners of some of those pets may have lost their jobs or their homes, Smith said. But for some pets, their fate was sealed by growing from kittens and puppies into unwanted dogs and cats.

Some owner surrenders are from people who mistakenly think the animals will have much longer to live than 24 hours or less, Foster said.

Meanwhile, another pet adoption issue has been the shelter's fee. In an emergency meeting Friday, the Advisory Board approved a recommendation to charge a flat $50 fee. The fee had been scheduled to change to $90 on Monday. The $50 fee includes spay/neuter, vaccination, treatment for worms and a rabies shot for older animals.

Veterinarians can opt in or out, Foster said. A local spay and neuter clinic will offer the service, she said.

The fee policy must be approved by the City Council.