The future of animal control in Bradley County remains uncertain.
The joint Bradley County Commission and Cleveland City Council animal control committee discussed the possibility of entering a joint partnership with a nonprofit to provide animal control services.
Cleveland City Councilman George Poe said during Tuesday’s gathering he is not in favor of abandoning the government-run system that had been successful in the past.
“What we had with the city providing that service for the entire county ... I think it made it a safer place to live for city and county residents,” Poe said.
Bradley County Commissioner Bill Winters said the cost of the contract was more than county leaders feel is affordable.
Poe said he would have liked to see the two governments work out an agreement. He said while saving money is good, considering the level of service that is being purchased is important.
“We want to make sure that we look at all options, and we would like to look at — is there an opportunity here for a coming together of the city and the county to look at a comprehensive plan?” Winters said.
Having a nonprofit shelter with government-run animal control and pickup service was discussed.
Winters said he wanted the governments to consider a partnership where each would make a set yearly donation to a nonprofit providing the service. Councilman Dale Hughes asked what the donation would need to be. An exact number was unknown because the county has not decided who it is partnering with. Hughes said the nonprofit would be governed by a board on which each government would be presented. He said this would provide accountability for the organization.
“I think there is going to have to be a lot groundwork done before this can become a reality,” Hughes said.
Commissioner Charlotte Peak-Jones said Chattanooga and Hamilton County have offered animal shelter and control services through separate nonprofits, and are now looking to merge them.
“This would be in the same direction they are heading,” Peak-Jones said.
Peak-Jones said in her opinion animal control is done better by a private nonprofit.
The Commission’s own animal control committee is waiting for letters of commitment from potential partners from SPCA of Bradley County and The Ark of Cleveland. The Commission has not yet made a decision on which nonprofit will provide shelter service for the county outside the city limits.
“We want to make sure that we do this right, that we do this in a way that we would not have to visit this long term again,” Winters said.
The Cleveland City Council heard from Bob Kaylor of The Ark on Monday asking for a letter agreeing to contract with the Ark to provide animal control services. Hughes said the Council had authorized he and Poe to draft a letter after the committee meeting. However, the councilmen agreed Tuesday they could not support the agreement until a cost to offer the service is known.
“There are two different proposals that are really flying in the air right now. One proposal would be for the Bradley County side. If they had their own shelter then it would be run by the Ark and the city would pick up animals in the county and take them to that shelter. ... The other side that you could look at is a combined shelter,” City Manager Janice Casteel summarized for the committee.
She said the current animal shelter facility could be used by a combined nonprofit shelter.
The Cleveland City Council has not officially discussed changing its current animal shelter and control arrangements.
Casteel said she would develop cost analysis for the cost of providing animal control if a nonprofit provides the shelter.
Community representative committee member Rachel Veazey said she would like to see the animal shelter keep track of who is adopting these dogs and if they are being taken care of. She also wanted to see more cooperation with nonprofit 501(c)(3) rescue groups.
She said aggressive animals should not be adopted out. Whether a dog should be euthanized should be a veterinarian decision, Veazey said.
Veazey said she is in favor of keeping the city animal control pickup service if the animal shelter becomes a nonprofit.
Many questions remained unanswered after the meeting.
What would it cost the city to provide animal control, but not an animal shelter? Would the city be interested in partnering with a nonprofit? Which nonprofit will the county choose?
Friday is the deadline for SPCA and the Ark to provide potential partners letters to the Commission.