Bradley County animal welfare activists are taking to the Cleveland Greenway on Saturday to make their case that the county’s contract for animal control should be awarded to the no-kill SPCA of Bradley County.
The Rally for the SPCA will be at noon on Saturday, on the Greenway at Raider Drive. In conjunction with the rally, Cleveland for a No Kill City will be holding an adoption event with animals from Cleveland Animal Control. The adoption event will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be puppies, kittens, dogs and cats in need of forever homes. Many of the animals at the event will be facing a death sentence if they are not adopted/rescued on Saturday.
The SPCA has extended a special invitation to Bradley County commissioners to attend the rally.
SPCA Public Information Officer Beth Foster said all of those involved in animal welfare work in Bradley County are grateful to the commissioners for considering alternatives to the catch-and-kill system that has been in place for so long.
“Just the consideration of alternatives is a progressive move by our County Commission,” Foster said.
“We are hoping this event gives the commissioners, the ones who will ultimately decide the fates of thousands of homeless cats and dogs, the opportunity to meet us, see our work, hear the stories about what we’ve done and hope to do, and meet the animals,” she said. “We also hope to use this event to inform commissioners of our greatest concern; and that is that if the contract is awarded to the wrong organization, it could end the amazing work that has been done by Cleveland for a No Kill City since June 2012.”
SPCA Board President Betti Gravelle said that if the work of Cleveland for a No Kill City is ended, the bodies of thousands of dogs and cats would once again pile up in the landfill without the companion animals ever having had a chance to have been adopted.
Cleveland for a No Kill City, now incorporated as a 501(c)(4), began as a grassroots activist organization that drove down the kill rate at Cleveland Animal Control from as high as 80 percent to less than 5 percent. Cleveland for a No Kill City used direct action and the creation of an alternative system to bring about those changes.
Ark of Cleveland, a local faith-based organization, has also submitted a proposal to provide animal sheltering/animal control for Bradley County. This proposal is based upon an alliance between the Ark and Cleveland Animal Control.
“What we fear most is that the county will give the contract to the Ark/Cleveland Animal Control,” said Jessica Tharpe, president of Cleveland for a No Kill City. “We think this is a tactic to remove Cleveland for a No Kill City from the process and place the responsibility in the hands of a private organization that would operate under the same culture that existed at Cleveland Animal Control before Cleveland for a No Kill City brought about change. Cleveland for a No Kill City was able to be part of the process because Cleveland Animal Control was a public facility. This would no longer be true under the Ark/Cleveland Animal Control contract alliance.
“If this happened, this would return us to the dark days before June 2012. Those were the days when animals entered the city impounding system and were never seen, never given a chance, never loved and never mourned. They were killed en masse without the public ever knowing they existed.
“The Ark hasn’t pledged to operate the county animal shelter as a no kill facility, they haven’t pledged to transparency in their operations, neither have they said they would be willing to work with Cleveland for a No Kill City to get animals to safety. To us this is an unacceptable option. That’s why Cleveland for a No Kill City supports the SPCA of Bradley County and asks the commissioners to vote Life Not Landfill.”
The SPCA of Bradley County was formed out of a coalition of local animal welfare organization to look at alternative systems of animal control/animal sheltering after Bradley County did not renew its long-term contract with the City of Cleveland to provide these services in July.
Organizations involved in the creation of the SPCA include Cleveland for a No Kill City, the East Tennessee No Kill Coalition, Dixie Day Spay, Dixie Pet Underground and B-I-T-E-S (the Bradley Initiative to End Suffering). A board of directors was formed and the group has incorporated as nonprofit animal welfare organization. The SPCA has filed for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.
At the end of last month, the SPCA of Bradley County submitted its full proposal to the Bradley County Commission, asking for a one-time donation from the county for $40,000 to renovate county-owned property on Johnson Boulevard as an animal shelter, plus an additional $80,000 annual donation for operating expenses. Proposals for the same services from both the City of Cleveland and Ark are three to four times this amount. The SPCA of Bradley County would use private fundraising, programs and grant opportunities to keep the county’s contribution at a minimum.
The board of directors is currently made up of Gravelle, director and founder of Dixie Day Spay; Sherry Brown, a Cleveland businesswoman and philanthropist; Dr. Michael Guedron, a veterinarian with experience in private practice, as a medical officer for the USDA, and in shelter medicine; Josh Serum, a longtime Cleveland rescuer and one of the founding organizers of Cleveland for a No Kill City; and Amanda Morgan, a longtime Bradley County rescuer and secretary to the board of directors for Cleveland for a No Kill City. Tharpe is serving as a liaison from Cleveland for a No Kill City to the SPCA and Foster is public information officer. Jack Cooper, who led East Ridge Animal Services to the distinction of being the first municipal no kill shelter in Tennessee, is acting as a consultant to the SPCA in setting up its operations and facility.