published Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Bradley County's animal control options studied

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. -- A panel of Bradley County and Cleveland officials wants to explore the feasibility of a joint city and county animal control venture that incorporates nonprofit shelter and adoption operations.

On Tuesday, the panel discussed the possibility of using a nonprofit animal rescue group to handle kennel operations at the Cleveland Animal Shelter while continuing to use city animal control officers to pick up stray animals and handle other animal-related law enforcement.

"Government should not be in animal control, in my opinion," County Commission Chairman Louie Alford said, adding that many municipalities across the state are partnering with nonprofit groups to take on that responsibility.

The benefit of handing animal shelter and adoption operations over to a private organization is twofold, Commissioner Bill Winters said. The framework places animal welfare in the hands of people who are passionate about it and allows partnering government bodies to contribute a fixed amount of financial support to those services.

Alford said he liked the idea of overseeing such a partnership through a board represented by members of county and city governments and the participating nonprofit organization.

"I think it could be a big, big savings to [Cleveland and Bradley County]," he said, citing the proposed Cleveland Animal Shelter budget that exceeded $600,000 for the 2013-14 period.

City Councilmen Dale Hughes and George Poe voiced concern over simply doing away with city-run operations at the Cleveland Animal Shelter. However, both expressed interest in continuing talks on the proposed nonprofit-driven partnership.

The next step will be for the panel to review alternative cost scenarios for Cleveland to provide animal control personnel within such a framework, City Manager Janice Casteel said.

Regardless of whether Cleveland joins such a partnership, Bradley County officials have stated their intent to rely on a private group to provide animal control services for county residents.

After the recent end of a longstanding agreement between Bradley County and Cleveland in which the county contracted animal control services through the city animal shelter, the county has been engaged in discussions with The Ark of Cleveland and the Bradley County Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals about the possibility of either of those groups providing those services for Bradley County.

Cleveland Animal Shelter services have been temporarily restored to county residents through a six-month agreement that began Sept. 9. County and city officials said the utmost speed is needed to reach a long-term solution before that agreement ends in March.

Cleveland and county officials will meet Monday to continue discussing long-term animal control solutions at the city municipal building.

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

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