published Friday, October 4th, 2013

Cleveland Animal Shelter board concerned about vaccination program

A kitten clings to a cage at the Cleveland Animal Shelter.
A kitten clings to a cage at the Cleveland Animal Shelter.
Photo by Angela Lewis.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The Cleveland Animal Shelter’s board is concerned about a proposed comprehensive vaccination program to be administered by volunteers for the city’s animal shelter.

In a recent meeting, the proposal to vaccinate incoming shelter animals against diseases such as parvo, distemper and kennel cough met with stiff resistance from panel members who cited medical and financial risks and logistical challenges.

“You can cause harm to a sick animal by giving them a vaccine or to an animal that’s too young for a vaccine,” said Dr. Sally Poston, chairwoman of the shelter’s board. “So we could actually do more harm in vaccinating animals without them being appropriately examined by a professional.”

Poston and Dr. Robert Taylor, the board’s vice chairman, said they could support such a vaccination program only if it is administered by veterinarians.

Giving vaccination responsibilities to shelter volunteers amounted to “bad medicine,” Poston said.

Opening the door for volunteer involvement with vaccinating or even administering medications to shelter animals also poses issues of liability for the city, she said. All it takes is just one animal bite that results in surgery, a hospital stay or disability, she said.

Shelter Director Gene Smith said such a vaccination program could not be administered by the animal shelter staff, citing a lack of personnel and medical expertise.

“I’m for helping the animals … but I think that’s a veterinary’s call,” said Smith, saying he was certainly willing to work with veterinary providers if that was the Cleveland City Council’s wish.

In other business, the panel voted 4-0 to recommend the council approve a simplified animal adoption contract.

“It actually is tailored more to the way you operate the shelter and procedures that you use now,” City Manager Janice Casteel said.

The essentials of the new adoption contract include a $50 fee that encompasses an animal’s exam, spay/neuter operation, deworming and rabies vaccination, if appropriate for the animal’s age. Discontinued practices — such as requiring $25 deposits to ensure the fulfillment of spay/neuter agreements — have been dropped from the adoption contract.

The animal shelter board also wants to address its own member concerns. The panel, which consists of Poston, Taylor, Kathy Kinder and Teresa Anderson, is one member short of its five seats.

In addition to the current vacancy, Anderson said she is considering giving up her seat if a replacement can be found for her.

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

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