Today, Cleveland Animal Control, a division of the Cleveland Police Department and contracted with Bradley County to meet the county’s needs for controlling stray and unwanted animals, has earned a more humane reputation as a center with a positive collaboration between several animal shelters and local veterinarians, according to Gene Smith, director of Cleveland Animal Control.
“I think we have a good relationship with local animal shelters and veterinarians,” Smith said. “Everyone is working pretty well together. I don’t know of any complaints.”
Smith praised all the local animal rescue agencies, like Dixie Dogs & Cats in Cleveland and local veterinarians, for their role in the sheltering, spaying, neutering and care of many stray, abandoned or unwanted animals.
“For the past six months, people like Loraine Munker with Dade County (Ga.) Animal Rescue, rescued between 20 and 25 animals a month in Bradley County,” Smith said. “Sue Little of Exclusively Shelter Pets does a pet adoption here at Animal Control once a month. It’s announced in the Banner. All of these rescue agencies are helping out a lot and we’d like to thank them.”
Since Cleveland’s Animal Control division is required by law to hold strays with no ID for only three full days, Smith said it is vital that pet owners get ID tags and follow state guidelines for their pets.
“It’s a state law in Tennessee to have a rabies tag on them,” he said. “It’s very important to us to get your pet back to you, and that rabies tag will help. We hold animals with tags 10 days and over when we can.”
For any animal that is surrendered by its owner, however, there is no set hold time and the animal may be euthanized immediately.
According to Smith, the latest numbers on the intake of stray and unwanted animals has gone down in Cleveland and Bradley County.
“Last year our intake was less than it’s been in the last eight to 10 years,” Smith said. “This is due to rescue agencies helping and promoting spay and neuter for pets. Also Dixie Day Spay services has made a huge impact.”
After reviewing the July 2010 to July 2011 results of Cleveland Animal Control, Smith reported 5,499 animals came through the facility, down from about 7,000 in previous years.
He was happy to report 674 animals were adopted, 396 were rescued and 371 pets were reclaimed during that time. Only 66 animals among them had tags, Smith said — an area that needs urgent improvement.
“The only way we can get these animals back to their owners is by them having that rabies tag on them, which can be scanned for all the proper identification,” Smith said. “They can also go to their local veterinarian and have a micro chip implanted with their pet’s information in it.
“We prefer if you’ve lost an animal to come to Cleveland Animal Control and identify your pet in person. That’s easier and less confusing for everyone. We also want people to come out and adopt a pet. We appreciate the support.”
Currently, animals from Animal Control are being delivered to the vet for their shots as well as spay/neuter — a milestone in recent years for Cleveland/Bradley County. The sensitivity of Cleveland’s Animal Control staff is also reflected in the fact that almost everyone there has rescued animals from the center out of compassion.
“I really appreciate our animal control staff,” said Smith, who has been with the agency for nearly 25 years and director for more than a decade.
“The entire staff are delivering animals being adopted to veterinarians for spay and neuter. The veterinarians here in Bradley County are doing a tremendous job in helping us control the pet population. We appreciate the working relationship we have with animal rescue agencies, veterinarians and the community.”
According to Smith, most animals brought in are not strays but “animal surrenders by owners.”
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says, “Approximately 5 to 7 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year and approximately 3 to 4 million are euthanized (60 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats).