Sometimes, the loss of a job or unforeseen financial expenses can force a pet owner to make difficult decisions about their pets.

This may include surrendering their pets to overcrowded local shelters, which can add emotional heartbreak on top of the already-mounting financial strain.

But a local nonprofit is hoping you’ll contact them first.


4 Paws Pantry in Red Bank provides up to six months of free food per animal to struggling pet owners on a case-by-case basis.

Since 2012, the organization has partnered with Metropolitan Ministries, Channels of Love and clients of Johnson Mental Health Center.

Currently, about 600 pounds of food are given out per month. But the need is growing, according to co-founder Sandi Smith.

“If it comes down to feeding your children or your pets, you feed your children and we’ll feed your pets,” she said.

Smith founded 4 Paws Pantry with Betty Crawford because of the growing needs of pet owners in the county.

But the food isn’t just given away. Clients must visit the 3906 Dayton Blvd. location and provide proof their animals are spayed or neutered before any food will be given.

Click here for the full application.

“We then will give them one month of food per animal,”Smith said. “We will provide this service for up to six months. After that, we will re-evaluate.”

Thus far, most clients have only used the service for a few months. Smith said the only requirement is that at some point in the future, they offer to give back through volunteering or donating food.

4 Paws Pantry receives referrals from both McKamey Animal Center and the Chattanooga Humane Educational Society. They also work closely with Nooga Paws to offer high-quality food.

For now, the organization is focused on helping residents of Hamilton County. But Smith said she’s hoping to promote awareness of 4 Paws Pantry as a pilot program for other cities in the near future.

“We’d like to get our message out nationally,” she said. “There are people in other communities who could be doing what we’re doing. There should be other groups out there. We want our message to go nationally so that we can maybe find people in other states.”

4 Paws Pantry can be found on Facebook and by calling 423-475-6342.