published Friday, August 1st, 2014

Bradley County commissioner calls no-kill shelter plan 'snake oil'

Shelter director Bobbi Anderson discusses concerns regarding overcrowding and volunteer procedures at the SPCA no-kill animal facility.
Shelter director Bobbi Anderson discusses concerns regarding overcrowding and volunteer procedures at the SPCA no-kill animal facility.
Photo by Paul Leach.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — A Bradley County commissioner has called for an end to the county's $80,000 contract with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Bradley County, the agency that provides animal sheltering services for all county residents.

"The county was sold snake oil," Commissioner Jeff Yarber said. He said the SPCA is not living up to a commitment to accept all domestic animals brought to it for shelter.

Yarber said he would like to see Bradley County and Cleveland come back together to provide animal welfare services through one operation, not two.

Bradley County ended a longstanding contract with Cleveland Animal Control in July 2013 after the County Commission and Cleveland City Council couldn't agree on the county's share of the city shelter budget.

The county saved about $250,000 by contracting with the SPCA.

"I believe the duplication of services is a waste of tax dollars," said Yarber, who was joined by Commissioners Bill Winters and Brian Smith in voting against the SPCA contract in December.

The SPCA failed to make proper operation plans for its no-kill shelter and has failed to execute plans it did make, he said.

Betti Gravelle, SPCA board president and executive director of Dixie Day Spay, disagrees.

"With all due respect, he is incorrect," Gravelle said Thursday.

She worked with Beth Foster of Dixie Pet Underground and Jack Cooper, formerly of East Ridge Animal Control, to devise the SPCA plan.

Shelter Director Bobbi Anderson has cited a number of problems with the facility since she was hired in early April. She said there was no paperwork in place to account for animals received and released by the shelter, she said.

Anderson recently stopped taking animals when the shelter's population reached 120 dogs and cats.

The facility, which opened March 17, still has not established an official capacity. Gravelle said doing that would equate to turning the facility into a kill shelter.

She has revived efforts to rescue shelter animals by networking with members of Cleveland For a No-Kill City, which she described as her "army" and a core part of the SPCA plan.

Yarber also voiced concerns that the board and volunteers were split into factions and in-fighting did not appear to be diminishing.

County Commissioner Charlotte Peak-Jones, who represents the county on the panel, recently described the board as dysfunctional.

"I have never been involved in an organization where so many individuals want to act as individuals and not as a team," Peak-Jones said.

Yarber said he plans to put his request to a vote at the Monday meeting of the commission.

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

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