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The Scruffy City Pet Guide: Tips, resources and places to travel with your pet in East Tennessee

East Tennessee has plenty to offer pet owners and people looking to adopt a new four-legged friend.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Every year, Knoxville goes to the dogs. The event is called Mardi Growl, and it usually brings out thousands of pets and owners dressed up in all kinds of costumes to walk around in the downtown area as part of a pet parade.

The event brings together East Tennessee organizations that help care for pets, such as the Young-Williams Animal Center and humane societies across the region. It also brings out vendors eager to share food, toys and many kinds of treats for dogs.

Some organizations offer help if a family faces challenges feeding or housing an animal. Some of them also have pantries available where communities may be able to find food for their animals.

There are also many spots in Knoxville and across East Tennessee where people can take their dogs to run and have fun.

Below are some tips and resources for pet owners, to help them better care for their four-legged family members.

Tips For Dog Care

Cold Weather Care Tips: In cold weather, pet owners should take steps like bringing their pets inside, or making sure outdoor pets have a sheltered, warm place to stay. They should also make sure to check their pet's paws frequently, to make sure there aren't any cold-weather injuries.

Hot Weather Care Tips: It's vital for dog owners to check their pet's paws during hot weather, especially they walk on surfaces like concrete or asphalt. The hot weather can cause burns. Long-haired dogs can also be especially susceptible to heatstroke in intense heat. To keep them cool, pet owners can purchase a cooling mat. Adding ice cubes to pets' water can also help them stay cool.

Pet Care During Fireworks: Animals can be easily spooked by fireworks. They may instinctively try to run away after hearing loud booms, and end up in danger. Pet owners can take steps like keeping them inside or comforting them with toys to help them through nights with fireworks.

Safe Treats: Dogs don't have the regulatory agency to make sure they only eat things that are safe. If they catch a whiff of something they like, there's a good chance they'll try to eat it regardless of whether it's toxic. Rawhide chews can be harmful for dogs' digestive tracts, and some foods like grapes or garlic can cause serious health issues.

Emergency Resources for Pet Owners

Sometimes, pet owners may not know where their dog's next meal will come from. Pet food can get expensive, and in some cases, their dogs may not be able to eat it. There are some places owners can go to find free food, and to find some other kinds of resources to make sure their pets are happy and healthy.

Young-Williams Animal Center: The YWAC Pet Food Pantry is meant to supplement owners' supply of pet food. It is not meant to be their only source of food but can help make sure their pets are still able to eat if they face challenges.

Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley: On the last Saturday of most months, from 11 a.m. through 2 p.m., the Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley hosts a Pet Food Pantry at 6717 Kingston Pike. People will need to make an appointment before showing up by emailing pethelp@humanesocietytennessee.org.

Knoxville-Knox County CAC Office on Aging: The Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee runs a program that helps place animals with seniors, helping seniors stay active and improve their emotional health. To support the program, they also have a Feed-A-Pet program that helps seniors struggling to buy pet food.

Catillac Ranch Sanctuary: This community-organized program is meant to provide a safe haven for abused and neglected animals. It also provides a community pet food pantry, as well as a low-cost neuter program.

MoCo Mutts Rescue Center: This resource is located in Morgan County and is aimed at providing rescue services for animals. But they also help provide a low-cost spay/neuter clinic in Harriman and have helped more than 4,000 animals with medical care, fostering and adoption.

Anderson County Animal Rescue Foundation: The rescue foundation operated a needs-based program meant to supplement monthly pet food needs and reduce the financial burden of caring for a pet. It's specifically meant to help low-income senior citizens in Anderson County, providing food, supplies, preventative and medical care.

University of Tennessee AlignCare: UT's AlignCare program addresses the needs of people, their pets and the ecosystems they're in. These kinds of healthcare systems focus on how the interconnection of people, animals, plants and their environment affects the health of everyone. UT's specific program especially focuses on providing veterinary care for family pets.

Pet-Friendly Locations in Knoxville

Throughout Knoxville, pet owners will find signs welcoming their dogs. Bowls of water are often placed near restaurants, and there are usually dog-friendly events held on the weekends. Several parks also have spots where people can bring their pets to run around and hang out with other dogs.

A list of those parks, events, and much more is available on Visit Knoxville's website. You can also find pet-friendly restaurants/breweries at this link. Other pet-friendly locations throughout East Tennessee are listed below.

Ijams Nature Center (South Knoxville): Ijams has a Pet Welcome Station with leash holders and pet waste bag stations just outside the visitor center. Animals aren't allowed inside the visitor center, but they can enjoy all the outdoors Ijams has to offer! If you forgot your waste bags, Ijams has some for sale in its gift shop.

Big Turtle Dog Park (Oak Ridge): Big Turtle Park provides two fenced areas for dogs to run around off their leashes. One of the areas is for dogs under 30 pounds, and the other is for dogs of all sizes. There are also benches for dog owners to relax, and a water fountain in each area.

Carden Farm Dog Park (Clinton): Located at 351 Rearview Dr., this dog park is located on a large property and offers a huge, fenced-in area for dogs to run and play. It includes separate enclosures for small and large dogs, as well as obstacles and a water fountain.

Morristown Dog Park (Morristown): This dog park is open seven days a week from daylight until 9:30 p.m. It is located at 1726 Dalton Ford Rd. and includes green grass, fresh water and some facilities for pets and their owners.

PetSafe Unleashed Dog Park (Sevierville): For people in Sevierville or Pigeon Forge, this Sevierville dog park is open from dawn to dusk and is located at 1005 Park Road. The park will be upgraded starting on Feb. 21 with a new concrete shelter for large dog owners. The park includes dog agility equipment, Wi-Fi, benches, observation cameras and space for dog training.

Mills Park (Gatlinburg): Located at 309 Mills Park Road in Gatlinburg, Mills Park recently added a much-needed dog park to the city for locals and vacationers alike. The dog park is divided into two areas for large and small dogs.

Gatlinburg Trail (Great Smoky Mountains): Dogs are generally prohibited on National Park trails. However, there are a couple of exceptions in the Smokies. The Gatlinburg Trail just outside Gatlinburg on River Road is one of two walking paths in the park where visitors can enjoy a long walk with their dogs. The trail runs from River Road to the storage area near the Sugarlands Visitor Center. The other trail, the Oconoluftee River Trail, is located in Cherokee, N.C. Dogs aren't allowed on other trails for safety reasons but can enjoy campgrounds, picnic areas, and areas along park roads. Just remember the BARK pledge: 

  • Bag your pet's waste 
  • Always leash your pet
  • Respect wildlife
  • Know where you can go

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area (Oneida): Located in the northern Cumberland Plateau, Big South Fork offers East Tennesseans and their pets an awesome time in the great outdoors with tons of trails. Pets are allowed on all park roads, trails and campgrounds. If you are planning a longer hike, you need to make sure your pet is also physically up to the task. Also, make sure to bring extra water for both you and your pup! The park has some pet hiking tips below:

Cherokee National Forest: The massive national forest is divided into two major sections along Northeast Tennessee and Southeast Tennessee. You can find a handy recreation map at this link with points of interest. Dogs are generally allowed in most areas of the forest, including trails and campgrounds, but are not allowed at swimming areas or beaches. Forest rangers have tips for travelers at this link.

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