Questions remain for the Bradley County Commission animal control committee regarding the two proposals to fill the void for services outside the city limits.
The committee plans to meet with the two organization: SPCA of Bradley County and the Ark of Cleveland again to ask for a additional documentation
Both organizations have listed volunteers, additional grants and other partnerships as ways they could make a nonprofit animal shelter work.
Board member J. Adam Lowe said during a committee meeting Wednesday that he wanted to see documentation expressing commitments from potential partners before a decision was made.
Both organizations had stated they would provide vaccination and medical care when each animal arrived and as needed. These would be provided through partnerships.
SPCA president Betti Gravelle said there were many grants available to pay for pet medical costs. Providing good medical care when an animal first comes in eliminates costs from dealing with certain illnesses, she said.
“The SPCA of Bradley County — what we did is there are five different animal groups that have operated in Bradley County for several years: Dixie Day Spay, which is the spay neuter clinic; Dixie Pet Underground (Railroad) which is a rescue organization; Cleveland for a No Kill City, which is the group that has changed Cleveland Animal Control from about 80 percent euthanasia to 3 percent; the Bradley Initiative to End Animal Suffering and the East Tennessee No Kill Coalition,” Beth Foster with SPCA said.
“Those five organizations came together when the city did not renew the contract.”
Since then the group has formed a board of directors, received a state charter and applied for nonprofit status with the federal government.
“This organization has been formed solely for the intention of providing a progressive animal control for Bradley County,” Foster said.
“I applaud you on that because I know ... there has been some discussion about the lack of cooperation among the animal rescue groups,” board member Ed Elkins said.
The Ark of Cleveland is a 501(c)3 and has operated in Cleveland for 15 years. Six of these years operating as a “no kill” facility.
Ark attorney Doug Blackwell said the organization has done fundraising in the past and is known in the community.
“We can from day one seek funding to offset any funds we get from the county, seek funds to help with renovation, etc,” Blackwell said.
Blackwell said the Ark already has a steady schedule of volunteers who work at the current location.
Opening a new facility would take some time to become a no kill shelter, according to Robert Caylor, Ark owner.
Caylor said a key would be working with adoption venues and partnering with a reputable transport adoption organization.
Adoption fees at the Ark are currently higher than those at the Cleveland Animal Control because it includes complete medical care upon adoptions.
Caylor said the fees are set to be lowered in the next month or so.
Board member Mark Hall asked how older dogs played in to the no kill equation.
Gravelle said there were organizations that focus on adopting older dogs. She said many older people want older animals. SPCA plans to partner with these organizations.
SPCA board member Jack Cooper said the intent is not “warehousing animals .. .a foster home will be found (or) it will go to a rescue.”
Animals will not be euthanized simply because they are old, he said.
Foster said the organization anticipates having a number of volunteers to provide an “enriched environment for the animals.”
“We don’t envision having any dog in a kennel 24 hours a day,” Foster said.
The Ark has also taken in older or sick dogs.
“We have a successful operation,” Blackwell said.
The organizations are asking for different annual donations from the Commission.
Cooper said the $80,000 a year donation from county would cover the daily operations salary of two employees. If SPCA’s proposal was chosen, he said from his work in the community he knows there will be enough volunteers to keep the shelter going.
The Ark of Cleveland based its annual donation request of $240,000 a year on the short-term solution rate with the city of $20,000 a month, according to Blackwell.
Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis had concerns about the renovation costs to make the facility suitable for animals. SPCA has estimated $40,000. Gravelle said this was based on two estimates of contractors who had walked through the building.
Gravelle said one contractor said the work could be done in three months.
“Granted in the beginning it will be a bit bare boned,” Gravelle said.
The Ark didn’t have an estimate in their proposal; however, when asked Blackwell said he thought the project could be completed for $30,000 to $40,000.
Blackwell stressed the was not a contractor and could not give a specific amount. He said the Ark has visited other facilities to look at their designs.
Hall expressed concerns to how the groups would function if anticipated grants, in addition to what the Commission is contributing, did not come.
Board chair Charlotte Peak-Jones asked the organizations to develop guidelines for what it considered an emergency.
SPCA intends to respond to emergency calls 24 hours a day. Cooper said this could be offered through an animal emergency hotline or by being dispatched through the Sheriff’s Office.
The Ark of Cleveland said it would pursue partnering with Cleveland Animal Control for this service.
Caylor said he had been in discussion with the animal shelter director and he had seemed in favor of the idea.
Blackwell said the organization is also working on a Plan B for this, if the city did not want to offer this service.
Whichever organization is chosen would be required to have a commissioner on their board and submit an annual audit.