Animal activists say Cleveland shelter prematurely killed dogs - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Animal activists say Cleveland shelter prematurely killed dogs; city says no

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Animal lovers held a candle light vigil outside the Cleveland Animal Shelter Friday morning for the three dogs put down Thursday. Photo by Dan Kennedy/WRCBtv.com Animal lovers held a candle light vigil outside the Cleveland Animal Shelter Friday morning for the three dogs put down Thursday. Photo by Dan Kennedy/WRCBtv.com
CLEVELAND, TN (WRCB) -

A group of animal activists are upset with the City of Cleveland. The "Cleveland For a No Kill City" group said the city broke a promise and prematurely killed three dogs at the pound.

The city confirmed it did euthanize the dogs Thursday but said it didn't break any promises.

The director of the Cleveland Animal Shelter, Gene Smith, has an agreement with the no-kill group.

Smith will let them know of any animals about to be put down ahead of time so the group can work to find them a home.

The shelter gave the group until Wednesday, Sept. 4 to help the three dogs find a home. But the dogs were never rescued and they were euthanized Thursday.

"I think these dogs died tragically, they died needlessly," said animal activist Betti Gravelle.

Betti Gravelle and other animal lovers held a candle light vigil outside the Cleveland Animal Shelter for the three dogs put down Thursday.

"Us being here, us remembering them makes sure they don't die in vain. It really needs to drive that point home," Gravelle said.

Gravelle is a member of the city's no kill group. It put out a flyer on Facebook saying the city killed Polly, Amber and Fiona Thursday. They say the problem is that an animal control officer at the shelter verbally promised them until Friday to find the dogs a home.

Beth Foster helped organize the morning vigil. She said the city didn't have to kill the dogs.

"There were empty kennels yesterday when the City of Cleveland euthanized these three dogs," she said. "This same broken promise happened in November when the director wasn't in town. And the director's on vacation now. So it always seems to happen when he's not here," said Beth Foster.

The city tells a different timeline and points to an email for proof.

"I know that the animal shelter is doing everything it possibly can to get these animals rescued. They're giving them ample time," said Evie West of the Cleveland Police Department.

Gene Smith is on vacation now but last week, warned the group these dogs only had until Wednesday to be rescued. His email dated Thursday, August 29 reads:

Good afternoon, we have several dogs that have been here for 3 to 4 weeks that needs to be adopted/rescued by next Wednesday 9-4-13. The reasons are because they have been here several weeks and I am getting concerned about their mental state. We try to put another dog in with them and we can't because they have aggressive behavior issues toward other dogs. Please put these on the urgent list Dogs#47,#89,#99,#110,#151. I have seen several of these dogs number on the adoption list but no one has ever came yet and adopted or rescued them so not for sure what happened. We do have other dogs that are not listed on here that has been here for several too but their behavior is good and of course they haven't got sick yet. Thank you all for continuing to get the word out for people to come and adopt/rescue. My hope is that adoptions/rescues will pick back up like they were so these pets can get a forever home and not have to be euthanized. Thanks again, Gene

"When these dogs are in these kennels for a long time, some times they have mental issues, a lot of them get sick and then other dogs get sick as well," West said.

No one rescued Polly, Amber and Fiona before the deadline.

Gravelle said it's a step back in their attempts to help make Cleveland a no kill city.

"The city does need to do better, we need to do better as a community. The last thing that needs to happen is that they die in vain," she said.

Foster said she did know Gene's written deadline was Wednesday. But she said the shelter had plenty of open kennels this week and normally that means they'll have the means to house any overflow of animals.

Foster said this is the first time since November the group has had an issue with any deadline's the city has imposed for euthanization.

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