published Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

Bradley County animal rescue group to run Cleveland, Tenn., shelter

Patrick and Mariah Betancourt walk through the Cleveland Animal Control Shelter looking for a dog or cat to adopt Thursday in Cleveland, Tenn. A five-member committee made up of two Cleveland City Council members, two Bradley County commissioners, and animal rescue worker Rachel Veazey is being formed to address providing animal control services to county residents.
Patrick and Mariah Betancourt walk through the Cleveland Animal Control Shelter looking for a dog or cat to adopt Thursday in Cleveland, Tenn. A five-member committee made up of two Cleveland City Council members, two Bradley County commissioners, and animal rescue worker Rachel Veazey is being formed to address providing animal control services to county residents.
Photo by Doug Strickland.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- The Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Bradley County, a nonprofit animal rescue group, has been selected to run animal control operations for the county.

On Monday, the Bradley County Commission voted 11-3 to approve a two-year agreement with the organization to provide humane rescue and sheltering of animals for $80,000 per year. Commissioners Jeff Yarber, Bill Winters and Brian Smith voted against the measure, which was sponsored by Commissioner Charlotte Peak-Jones.

The Bradley County Ad Hoc Animal Control Committee, of which Peak-Jones is chairwoman, had made a similar recommendation, but the vote on its recommendation was removed from the agenda per her request. She said she substituted her own recommendation after a complaint that the ad hoc panel's last meeting was not adequately publicized.

"It's time to get busy," said Betti Gravelle, president of the SPCA of Bradley County, after the vote. "It was a victory for the animals that was won today."

The nonprofit shelter will be located in unused county facilities on Johnson Boulevard, next to the Bradley County Juvenile Courts Center.

The SPCA's next big steps are to renovate the facilities and organize staff and volunteers in preparation for opening in early April, Gravelle said.

The Cleveland Animal Shelter now provides animal control services to county residents living outside city limits under a temporary agreement between Bradley County and Cleveland. A longstanding animal control services agreement ended July 1 when neither side could agree on the county's portion of the animal shelter budget.

The SPCA of Bradley County was in competition with The Ark of Cleveland, a faith-based 501(c)(3) corporation that operates an animal shelter on Oak Street and proposed to run a larger shelter for the county for $240,000 in annual support.

Such a difference in the bids should have raised some eyebrows, Yarber said. It should make commissioners ask if they are getting "bamboozled" by the $240,000 proposal or underbid with the $80,000 proposal, he said.

Commissioner Ed Elkins said the disparity was due to The Ark's reliance on city animal control officers to provide its animal pickup services.

A number of commissioners expressed regret that Cleveland did not join the county in its decision to go with a private-sector solution for animal control needs.

"They just walked away from the table," said Winters, who had joined Peak-Jones in a failed effort to include the city in a joint venture with a private animal control service provider.

Commissioner Jeff Morelock said he "reluctantly" supported the SPCA proposal and hoped the city and other animal rights groups joined in the effort.

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

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