SPCA board of directors president Betti Gravelle admitted to the Bradley County Commission Monday the organization is not in compliance with the terms of the contract between the organization and the county to run the county animal shelter.
“There were questions at the last Commission meeting about whether we were fulfilling the contract,” Gravelle said.
“I’m here to answer that question. No, we are not. We have not been meeting your expectations as far as open intake.”
She said a plan has been put in place “to address that issue,” referring to the model Gravelle designed which she said had never been put into place.
The board of directors allowed her 30 days to put it into action.
That 30 days will end at the SPCA meeting next Monday.
“We have plans, we have resources. It will definitely address [open intake],” Gravelle said. “If you want to formally notify the SPCA [of contract violations], send it to me, Betti Gravelle, and I will deal with that. I will come back in 30 days and tell you how we have addressed that.”
Her remarks came at the end of a discussion which seemed to place commissioners on an opposing course with Gravelle’s desire not to have a set capacity for the shelter.
Her remarks also appear to contradict that of an SPCA board member who has stated when the shelter reaches capacity, it has to delay intake for a period of time.
Commissioner Charlotte Peak-Jones, who sits on the SPCA board, talked about the “heated discussion about how the SPCA was not in violation of the contract.”
At the time, Peak-Jones said commissioners noted that section 5(a) of the contract “was too general.”
That item states: “Generally. Lessee agrees to provide sheltering of all domestic animals brought to the facility by Bradley County residents at no charge to the citizens during normal business hours; 24-hour, seven days a week on-call retrieval and sheltering of domestic animals when requested by the Bradley County Sheriff’s Department; and cooperation with Bradley County and Bradley County Sheriff’s [Office] in quarantine and criminal prosecutions related to cruelty, neglect and mistreatment of animals.”
Peak-Jones noted the item is labeled as “generally,” “so it’s general enough.”
But, she added there was thought it should be worded differently so the SPCA “is not technically in violation.”
“It does not say they have to take [surrendered animals] that day,” Peak-Jones said. “Sometimes when they are full, they have to tell them to come back the next day. That is a problem with some commissioners, so I put it on the agenda to discuss if they want to reword it or [figure out] what to do there.”
Peak-Jones said she disagreed with Gravelle’s ongoing argument that setting a capacity would make the shelter a “kill facility.”
“That’s because SPCA will not kill them anyway,” Peak-Jones said. “If we put a capacity trigger saying if we have so many animals we will not do intake until we get rid of a few, if we could put that in the contract ... it wouldn’t put us in violation. That’s my thought that we have a capacity trigger that they are allowed to stop intakes on that day when they reach that capacity — and not that they go in and start killing them, either.”
Commissioner Bill Winters said he had recently visited the shelter and he was “a little disturbed,” by what he saw.
“This Commission is not a no-kill commission,” Winters said. “We have contracted with a group that wants to do no-kill. It’s up to them to decide to house those animals to a point where they can be adopted. We contracted this out. I think we need to set the capacity and say we won’t take animals after that point.”
He said the county is just providing the space and “the nonprofit does what they want to do with this adoption process.”
“Capacity needs to be put into place for a lot of reasons,” Winters said. “For the health of those working there, as well as those who live in the neighborhood.”
County attorney Crystal Freiberg said there is no implied capacity in the contract.
“Essentially the state is going to look at all kinds of factors about size,” she said. “It is correct there is going to be a point where they can’t take any more and it’s just a matter of what that point is, but a lot of that depends on how big the animals are and different issues with that.”
Freiberg said the county has contracted with the SPCA “so that Bradley County does not have to worry about those concerns about facilities, what the intake is and that type of thing.”
She said the capacity wording could be put in the contract, but warned there would be nothing to require ever getting rid of any animals.
“That same number could stay there for three years and they would never get rid of them,” Freiberg said. “That’s something to look at as well as some language that would require the facility to keep moving [the animals]. It was written the way it was because that’s the way the proposal was submitted to us, and there were things that were agreed to be done.”
She said if SPCA wanted changes to the contract, it should be that board initiating those changes by submitting them to the county for consideration.
Peak-Jones said that would be discussed at the SPCA board of directors meeting to be held Monday in the Commission meeting room at 7 p.m.