CLEVELAND, TN (WRCB) -- Cleveland city leaders are responding to several months of efforts by local animal activists who've complained that Bradley County Animal Control was euthanizing animals at an alarming rate. First city leaders changed protocol. Now they've created a new position to help relieve overcrowding and save lives.
The new sign at animal control says it all-- "The city of Cleveland is striving to become a no-kill shelter." It started as a grass roots movement with animal activists outraged at how many animals were being put down here. Now the city is showing it's on board.
"It was essential that 'the row' behind me as I call them had a voice. They can't speak for themselves and until this movement started, they had no face," Lindsey Smith said.
The city appointed Smith as Bradley County's Animal Rescue and Advocacy Liaison. That basically means she's the unpaid contact for anyone willing to help these homeless animals.
"This was absolutely the city's way to say we believe in your effort, we want to show you we're signing on," Smith said.
The city changed animal control rules this fall to allow 72 hours before putting animals down. The shelter had been so overcrowded, some weren't lasting a day.
"I think it's wonderful to have the city's support," animal activist Gina Emerton said.
Still, many pins are above capacity and while at a much lower rate, euthanizations are still happening. Four pups just had to be put down on the same day.
"This city is absolutely not 'no kill' and to believe that is to bargain with the lives of the animals that are behind me," Smith said.
"A huge, huge need in this area," animal activist Loretta Bednarcik said.
For the last six months, the group Cleveland For A No Kill City has been the leading charge-- taking to social media and holding frequent adopt-a-thons and saving hundreds of four-legged lives. Now thousands have joined them.
"If we all work together, this is one common goal we're going to make," Bednarcik said.
Smith wants to stress that local rescue groups are still needed in order to become a no kill city.
"It's not the city's way of taking over the movement. If we did that, we will fail. We will absolutely fail," Smith said.
City Manager Janice Casteel says they need more volunteers to help with their efforts. If you're interested, contact Lindsey Smith at animal control office by calling (423)479-2122.