A Cleveland woman has taken it upon herself to petition Bradley County government to reinstate the animal control contract with the city of Cleveland.
Rachel Veazey has posted an online petition on www.change.org, which she hopes will convince county commissioners to continue the contract until a plan is in effect outside the city limits.
“It’s one thing to disagree and have issues with a budget, but it’s another thing to remove services without attempting all means toward compromise and before an alternative plan is put in place,” she said.
Veazey is on the board of directors of Dames for Danes Great Dane Rescue out of the Knoxville and Oak Ridge area.
“That is the only [animal rescue] group I belong to,” she said. “We work tirelessly to save many animals with our network all over the country — and the world for that matter.”
So far, she has collected 492 signatures. Most are from within Bradley County, though many are from the Knoxville area. She has attracted some international attention from one person in France.
“Our goal is to convince the County Commission to form a working group to sit down with a working group from the City Council and rework the animal control contract immediately,” she said. “While the county is discussing options and until they have an alternative plan in place, the animals and citizens of Bradley County and Cleveland cannot live with these conditions and risks.”
Veazey said the county may want to separate from the city regarding animal control, but should not do so without a plan in place.
“They cannot abandon animal control while they discuss options. Starting their own services could take months or years, and neither animals nor residents have that kind of time,” she said.
Since the contract between the two local governments expired June 30, she said homeless animals from the county are being dumped in the city at alarming rates.
“Local rescues are full and report the numbers of calls they are receiving has quadrupled in the last month,” she said. “There is no protection or accountability for animal cruelty or diseased, starving or sick animals. Just as an example, I received a call regarding a city worker who was concerned about eight pups living in horrible conditions in the county. He has no one to call.”
There is no plan in place for aggressive or fearful stray animals. She said a dog recently wandered onto the Bradley Central High School campus. It was snippy and scared. Animal Control could not come onto county property. Teachers and parents had to wrangle the dog into a car so children would not be at risk. The task took four hours and was not safe for anyone involved.
There is no plan for dog bites and the required 10-day quarantine. In the Benwood subdivision, a stray dog bit a child. The dog is still roaming around.
There is no plan for animals belonging to jailed, hospitalized, abandoned or deceased county residents.
“Three weeks ago, Bradley County sheriff’s deputies arrested a man on I-75 at Exit 33. He had two dogs in his car. They had nowhere to take them and spent hours calling rescuers and vets until they finally found somewhere for the dogs to go for the night,” she said. Finally, she said, there is no plan for lost animals to find or reunite with owners.
The Cleveland City Council began discussing the animal control contract at its Feb. 25 meeting, when Council members discussed a letter from County Mayor D. Gary Davis stating the county’s intention to end the animal control contract on June 30. Davis said the county is exercising its option to terminate the “Agreement for Animal Control Services” first signed in 1994.
Davis wrote that he welcomed the opportunity to discuss options for a new contract which would be satisfactory to both parties.
A month later at its March 25 meeting, the City Council said it was willing to continue to provide all of Bradley County with an animal shelter, provide for animals needing protection and adoption, and continue toward certification as a no-kill city.
Banks offered a motion at the March meeting to extend the current agreement for a three-year period. The motion passed by a 7-0 vote.
The city’s proposal was based on the fiscal year 2014 operating budget of $649,007 plus depreciation costs, which raised the amount to $663,174. After sales, fees and fines of $31,433 the net operating cost was estimated at $631,741. The county’s share would have been 56.2 percent or $355,038.
The county proposed a contract based on the previous year’s operating budget of $548,043. Under that proposal, the county share would be $298,455, or $56,583 less than the city’s offer.
In the past calendar year, 1,687 shelter animals came from the city and 3,114 animals came from the county for a total of 4,801. Animal control officers responded to 7,888 calls, of which 3,867 were in the city and 4,021 in the county. Overall, 56.2 percent of the animals and calls came from the city.
City Manager Janice Casteel said if the Council offered to base the contract on audited numbers, “there might be some more (Commission) votes that would come in that direction. When you send a message that it’s Option A or nothing, there could be some votes lost there.”
Casteel said commissioners do not like the city proposal because it is based on the next year’s numbers.
Two resolutions pertaining to the animal control contract were placed on the May 29 County Commission agenda. One option would use audited numbers on county animals served at the shelter from last year to determine the cost to the county. That option would have saved the county about $92,000.
The second option, which came from the finance committee, would have eliminated animal pickup outside the city limits. The estimated cost was more than $200,000. Under that proposal, county animals would have been accepted at the animal shelter.
In a story published Jan. 18, 2006, Cleveland Animal Control officers suggested service expansion by the county, since a majority of calls and pickups were outside the city limits.
As of fiscal year 2004, the county’s share of animal control was just over $200,000, but under the contract at that time, the county could have expanded its service without participation from the city, or it could engage in a joint effort between the two governments.
At that time, animal control handled more than 8,000 animals each year.
The animal control contract between the city and county originated in 1994. It was renewed May 23, 2003 with new terms of the contract being an automatic renewal of the contract each fiscal year.
Veazey said the petition can be signed by visiting http://www.change.org/petitions/bradley-county-commission-cleveland-city-council-renew-county-animal-control-contract.