Frequently Asked Questions

At MAC, we do not call ourselves a “no kill” shelter, since that is a term that often creates more confusion than clarity, and has at times been used as a justification for inhumane animal care. Instead, we say that even though MAC takes in any animal in need from within our jurisdiction regardless of its health, age or temperament, we are committed to never euthanizing simply for reasons of space or time. When we receive an animal at MAC, those that are safe and healthy are placed into our foster/adoption programs as quickly as possible. The path for all other animals is determined by their unique circumstances, namely: the severity of their medical or behavioral condition; the risk they pose to staff/volunteers and other animals in our care; public safety; the ability of a typical home to manage their medical or behavioral issues; and the overall quality of life the animal is expected to have. 

If we are unable to place an animal directly into our adoption program, we may explore placement with rescue organizations, barn cat programs, or other “non-home” environments, provided if the animal poses no safety risk and is likely able to experience a high quality of life. When even that is not an option, we do consider euthanasia the most humane decision. This decision is always made with the utmost consideration, and is conducted in a manner that is humane, respectful, and performed in accordance with the highest standards of care and in compliance with state and national standards.

We are very proud of our record of success in finding placements for the overwhelming majority of animals that come through our doors. In 2021, for example, our “live release rate” (the percentage of animals that were successfully placed in new homes) was nearly 90%. This success is due in large part to a devoted staff and the ongoing support of our rescue networks, volunteers & fosters partners, who work each and every day to socialize animals in the shelter, transport animals to rescue partners near and far, foster animals in their homes, and ultimately place them in new loving homes.

Animals come to MAC in a variety of ways. Most typically they are either “impounded” by an animal services officer (usually because they are stray (also called “running at large”) or because of a biting incident or similar event) or surrendered by an owner unable to keep them. Other times, they come to us for temporary boarding after a house fire or other disaster, or just stay with us overnight because they are receiving TNR (trap/neuter/return) surgery. MAC will accept most any type of animal living in, or found in, the City of Chattanooga, Red Bank or Lakesite (Humane Educational Society handles animals in the greater Hamilton County area).


McKamey Animal Center is proud to be a Fear Free Shelter! All of our staff members have earned their Fear Free certification, and training is included in our onboarding plan for all new hires. MAC is committed to making our facility as stress and fear free as possible, and this certification is one important step towards ensuring every animal’s emotional and physical needs are being met.

In the City of Chattanooga, Red Bank and Lakesite, all dogs must be on a leash at all times whenever off their owner’s property – a dog found wandering might be subject to impound at the shelter. In addition, dogs and cats over 3 months of age must be properly rabies vaccinated and licensed. You can purchase a license at McKamey Animal Center or at participating veterinary offices (rabies vaccination is required before licenses can be purchased). You can find more information on applicable laws and restrictions, including those regarding barking dogs, tethering, etc. by calling 423-305-6500 ext. 2.

In the past, shelters would simply open their doors to the public during specific hours and anyone could drop off an animal, no questions asked (picture a hospital emergency room, with an overcrowded waiting room and long wait times to receive professional attention). While this was convenient for the public, it meant staff could never prepare for what animals would be coming in or when – they could receive 5 pets or 150 pets per day, there was just no way to know. 


This created significant problems in terms of the quality of animal care shelters could provide, because if there were more animals entering than open cages available, the shelter quickly became overcrowded, causing stress and suffering among the entire population. Too many animals streaming in also meant a lack of time to perform necessary medical exams, vaccinations, and other essentials. A better approach, recommended by national sheltering experts, is to set appointments for animal intake (called “managed intake”) – these allow a shelter to have a better idea of what to expect on any given day, and make sure that cages are open and waiting and that resources are available to ensure each animal receives quality care (imagine your doctor’s office, with considerably less chaos and shorter wait times than that overburdened emergency room). 


Of course we always take in emergency cases immediately, we make sure stray animals have priority and we make every effort to accommodate those with time critical needs, but managed intake helps us ensure we have the resources available to provide the best possible care for all incoming animals.

If you are having trouble keeping your pet, please call us at 423-305-6500 ext. 3 to discuss your situation with our animal intake team – we may be able to help troubleshoot medical and behavioral options that can help you keep them! If that is not an option, we strongly encourage you to either ask family and friends to take your pet or use Adopt-A-Pet to rehome your pet yourself (after all, you know better than anyone what the perfect home for your pet is!). 


If you have no alternative but to give up your pet, and you live in the City of Chattanooga, Red Bank or Lakesite, please call us at 423-305-6500 ext. 3 to make a owner surrender appointment.


If you have lost your pet, please call us immediately at 423-305-6500 ext. 3 so we can search our found pets directory and advise you as to next steps. Generally speaking, for most lost pets (aside from indoor-only cats) it is best to alert all neighboring animal shelters and veterinary offices (in case a Good Samaritan finds your pet injured), organize friends and neighbors to help you search, share your pet’s photo on social media (particularly neighborhood groups and lost pet sites) and post “Lost Pet” flyers around the neighborhood (those with rewards or that indicate your pet needs regular medication tend to get noticed more). 

If your indoor-only cat is lost, however, bear in mind that most fearful cats hunker down in the first “safe” space they can find, usually no more than 3 houses away. They will not generally call out for you or come out for some time, since their fear of predators will override their desire to find safety with you. Search your property and your close neighbors’ properties thoroughly, looking in every possible tiny hiding spot close to where he was lost (under decks, shrubs, etc.). Use a flashlight to search again at night, trying to spot his eyes reflecting the light back, and set a humane trap with smelly food inside. Some lost inside cats can take weeks to emerge, so don’t give up hope!

If you have found a stray dog within the City of Chattanooga, Red Bank or Lakesite, or if you live in any of those jurisdictions, please call us at 423-305-6500 ext. 2 immediately to report it, particularly if the dog appears ill or injured or is behaving aggressively. If the dog appears healthy and friendly and it is possible for you to keep it safe and actively help reunite it with its owner (by checking for tags and microchip, sharing on social media, etc.), that is ideal – after all, most lost dogs are found not far from home. If not, please either plan on bringing the dog to us after calling 423-305-6500 ext. 3.

If you have found a stray cat within the City of Chattanooga, Red Bank or Lakesite, or if you live in any of those jurisdictions, and the cat appears ill, injured, is in immediate danger or has clearly recently been abandoned (e.g. you witnessed it dumped from a car or know your neighbors have moved away and left them behind), please call us right away (423-305-6500 ext. 1). 

Otherwise, chances are good that the cat lives somewhere in the community and doesn’t need help!  Studies show that most “lost” cats (up to 60%) actually find their way home on their own, but only about 2% are ever reunited with their families if they are brought into a shelter. The best thing to do in that case is simply leave the cat alone, so it can find its owners. If you continue seeing the cat, though and its condition is beginning to deteriorate, please call us.

Generally speaking, if you find even very young kittens the best thing to do is leave them alone – mom is usually nearby, and the kittens’ best chance for survival is to remain in her care. Kittens that are warm and have full bellies are already being well cared for by mom and don’t need your help. However, if the kittens are cold and mom hasn’t been spotted for several hours, or if you are certain that mom has passed away or been removed from the area, they will need your intervention — please call us at 423-305-6500 ext. 1. If you are willing and able to hold onto the kittens, please call 423-305-6500 ext. 3 for kitten care kits, vaccination and spay/neuter information that will let you keep the kittens happy and healthy until they are old enough to find new homes of their own (about 8 weeks old). We share these kits and information because kittens will always thrive better in a real home than in a shelter – for that reason, we always hope that every orphaned kitten can be cared for in a home setting, and we want to support that! But of course, we will gladly accept them and provide care if you can’t.


Cats generally don’t acclimate well to a shelter environment, particularly those who have been living outdoors. Moreover, studies prove that lost cats are 13 times more likely to find their way home if they are not displaced and brought into a shelter (nationally only about 2% of shelter cats are ever reunited with their owners). Shelter medicine experts agree, therefore, that leaving cats where they are, in the environment that is most familiar to them, is the most humane thing to do. 

For that reason, MAC tries to avoid bringing outdoor cats into the shelter unless the cat is ill, injured, clearly recently abandoned and not established as a resident of the area, a repeated nuisance, or in imminent danger of harm if left to remain in the environment. Ideally, we ask for the public’s help in getting outdoor cats spayed/ neutered and returned to their home as quickly as possible, so the stress on the cat is minimal, she can no longer reproduce, and if she is truly lost she has the best chance of finding her way back home.

Nuisance cats can be challenging – although the obvious solution would seem to be simply having the cat removed from the property, that often is the worst thing to do, since more cats are likely to fill that space and continue the problem (the same principle applies to dealing with wildlife). 

If you’re dealing with a nuisance cat, the first step is to ask why the cat may be coming onto your property, and remove/cover anything the cat may be attracted to, like feeding stations, garbage piles, open sand boxes, etc. If there are no “attractants” on you property, the next step is to put out humane deterrents designed to make your property unappealing to cats, including setting up motion activated sprinklers, using ultrasonic devices like CatStop, even placing strongly scented items around your yard (like sprinkling coffee grounds, spritzes of cheap (and stinky!) perfumes, orange peels or scrapings of Irish Spring or other heavily scented soaps) in the areas they frequent. 


Physically removing the cat and bringing it to the shelter should be your last resort, since that rarely solves your cat problem once and for all. Please call us at 423-305-6500 ext. 2 for more tips and information on dealing with nuisance cats.

MAC has a team of dispatchers and Animal Protection Officers that provide law enforcement, cruelty investigation and pet owner support functions for the entire City of Chattanooga as well as Red Bank and Lakesite. On any given day our officers respond to a huge variety of calls, from nuisance barking and abandoned kittens to aggressive dogs and intentional cruelty situations, and they are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a week. To report an animal emergency please call 423-305-6500 ext 1. To report an animal issue that is not an emergency, please call 423-305-6500.


Our in-house veterinary team provides lifesaving care both for our shelter pets and also offers limited preventative and spay/neuter services for the public. As part of our commitment to saving every possible animal, our veterinarians regularly perform amputations, enucleations and other lifesaving surgeries for shelter animals that might not otherwise be adopted into loving new homes. They also treat dozens of heartworm positive shelter dogs each year, a time consuming and expensive process that saves dogs who would otherwise pass away from this fatal disease. For the general public, our veterinary team performs spay/neuter and cat TNR (trap, neuter, return) surgeries and provides preventative care like vaccines and microchips that help keep our community’s pets safe and healthy. To learn more visit or Veterinary Services section of our website.

Absolutely! Fosters and Volunteers are the lifeblood of any animal shelter, and MAC is no exception! A healthy, productive volunteer program serves to support the staff in meeting the mission of the organization, and we can’t fulfill our mission of Saving Animals, Helping People without them! To find out more, visit our foster information page, our volunteer information page, or call 423-305-6500 ext. 7.

MAC receives a portion of its operating budget from the City of Chattanooga, as well as Red Bank and Lakesite, in exchange for the animal control services we provide those municipalities. However, the bulk of our funding comes from private donations, foundations and grants. If you would like to donate, sponsor an adoption event or otherwise contribute to MAC’s lifesaving work, please visit our donations page or email our Director of Advancement, at

Thanks for asking! There are so many ways you can support McKamey Animal Center. At the end of the day, monetary donations are one of the best ways to support MAC. A monetary donation allows for us to use funding in the most strategic way possible to help every animal that comes through our doors. All donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of US Law. Monetary donations can be made in a variety of ways:

· Monthly Donations

· General Donations

· Donate to our Angel Fund

· Memorial/Honorarium Gifts

· Sponsorships

· Work Place Giving

· Host Your Own Fundraiser!


Please visit our Ways to Give Section for details! Although monetary donations are preferred, donations of most items are always gratefully accepted – please see our donation wishlist or order directly from our Amazon wishlist or our Chewy wishlist (unfortunately we cannot accept donations of open bags of pet food/treats or medications prescribed for other animals). Feel free to drop your donations off at the Center, located at 4500 North Access Road, Chattanooga, any time – there is an outdoor donation bin located just to the left of our main adoptions entrance.

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McKamey Animal Center

4500 N. Access Rd.

Chattanooga, TN 37415

McKamey Animal Center was founded in 2008, serving the pets and people of the cities of Chattanooga, Red Bank and Lakesite, Tennessee. MAC is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit charitable organization.