The SPCA of Bradley County, which has signed a contract with the Bradley County government to begin handling animal control services for county residents in March, is turning two county-owned buildings that had fallen into disrepair into a new animal shelter.
The organization has taken over two buildings at 1570 Johnson Blvd., adjacent to the Bradley County Justice Center.
This week, crews from Worth Construction have been doing things like painting, framing walls and drilling into solid concrete floors to add drainage to get the buildings ready to house dogs and cats in need of homes.
Shelter Director Jack Cooper said renovations have been taking longer than planned due to last week’s snow, but the shelter should be ready to go by March.
The SPCA of Bradley County is set to officially take over animal control services for county residents who live outside the Cleveland city limits on March 17. The shelter will have a “soft opening” on March 1, he said.
“We’re ready to hit the ground running,” Cooper said.
Work still to be done on the shelter’s building includes installing kennels and setting up rooms for offices. He said getting the buildings ready to go has been a challenge, given the condition of some areas of the property. For example, new electrical wiring had to be run in the building closest to the road because it was never repaired after it sustained damage in a tornado in April 2011.
The first building visitors will come to when leaving Johnson Boulevard will house the shelter’s offices and rooms for cats. The larger building beyond it will include 15 large cement kennels for dogs, as well as space for more prefabricated kennels to be added as needed.
The renovations to both buildings have been funded in part by a $40,000 allowance included with the organization’s contract with Bradley County.
Cooper said the SPCA is being billed for the construction, and the county will reimburse it for the costs it incurs. Though the county is not directly supervising renovation process, two Bradley County commissioners sit on the SPCA’s board of directors.
However, he said the organization has been on a fundraising push lately, because the $40,000 cannot be used for items like movable animal cages and office equipment. Grant applications are also in the works.
“This is such a huge undertaking,” Cooper said. “But progress is going well.”
Cooper said preparations for the animal control operation have also continued.
Though the SPCA currently only has one vehicle for picking up animals, he expects the organization will have bought a second one by mid-March. At first, there will be two full-time animal control officers, but he said the organization is also looking into finding part-time officers.
He said he has been in discussion with the local 911 Center, and at least one animal control officer will be on call 24/7 to handle any emergency situations involving animals.
Cooper said the organization will also work in partnership with the Bradley County Sherriff’s office for needs like animal cruelty investigations.
While he expects most calls will be dispatched through the 911 Center, people will also be able to call the shelter’s office to report any animal-related problems.
Since the city of Cleveland has its own animal control division, Cooper said the SPCA will only be handling calls to areas in Bradley County that fall outside city limits. However, he stressed that city residents will still be able to drop off or adopt animals at the shelter.
Cooper said he believed the SPCA shelter opening would be a “positive” thing for Bradley County because having multiple shelters and animal control entities would help “spread the workload” of taking care of animals.