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High Sierra Animal Rescue: The commitment that sets them apart

This is the third and final article in a series about High Sierra Animal Rescue, a local no-kill rescue organization committed to saving homeless animals and advancing pet welfare. View part 1 & part 2.

In the past year, High Sierra Animal Rescue has cared for hundreds of homeless dogs in its rescue and boarding facility located in Delleker. While most of these dogs were in the shelter for a short time before being adopted, many had special needs, and would require a lengthier stay. Several would need veterinary treatment or behavioral training as well.

“We never give up on a dog. When we take in a dog, we are committed to that dog for life. No matter what,” stated HSAR co-founder and board president, Doug Rodrigues.

This lifelong commitment to each animal is part of what sets HSAR apart from many other rescue organizations. The previous article in this series explored the adoption process and the importance of finding the best fit.

However, even with careful screening, some adoptions result in the animal being returned to the shelter. Sometimes it is because the adopter had unrealistic expectations, or perhaps there is a change in the adopter’s circumstances. Other times it just wasn’t a good fit.

Regardless of the reason, HSAR requires that the dog be returned to their care, so that they may work with the dog to find an appropriate home.

This past year, several previously adopted dogs were returned to the shelter as seniors. Because of their age, senior dogs can be difficult to re-home, and some shelters will euthanize them. But at HSAR, senior dogs are given special treatment and care until they find their forever home.

Batika and Sendoa with their new adopters. The senior dogs were adopted and then returned several years later, but have now found their forever home. Photo submitted

There was Kerby, who was adopted as a puppy and returned at age 8. HSAR provided him with life-saving surgery for a flipped stomach, and he is now in his forever home. Travis, a boxer mix, was also adopted as a puppy and returned recently at age 10. At HSAR, he receives the veterinary care he needs, and a prescription medication for his sore hips. He spends his days sleeping on a soft bed in the front office, greeting visitors and waiting for his new home.

Batika and Sendoa, a pair of 12-year-old Great Pyrenees, were returned when their family was no longer able to care for them. Because of their large size, advanced age, and that they had to be adopted together, finding just the right home for them would take time. They were welcomed back into the shelter and fortunately, were adopted to a family with experience with the breed last week.

Thanks to HSAR’s dedication, they found their forever home just in time for Christmas.

“Without continuing support from our donors and volunteers, we could not provide this quality of care for senior and special needs dogs,” said Rodrigues. “Support from the communities we serve is imperative to our success.”


Networking has played a big role in that success as well. From its inception through today, HSAR has partnered with a number of other rescue groups to stay at the forefront of the industry, learning from organizations like the San Francisco SPCA and Marin Humane Society. Through these relationships they learned the “Four Pillars of Success in Rescue:” 1) to have an aggressive spay/neuter program to help manage the pet population, 2) to have an effective adoption program, 3) to have a humane education program to educate the community about responsible pet ownership and 4) to work well with other counterparts in the county.

A close relationship with Petco and PetSmart has also helped HSAR. Weekly adoption events are held at Petco in Reno, providing outreach and marketing to the area. The group has also received grant funding from PetSmart Charities for their much-needed van, used to transport animals, and for the county-wide spay and neuter program.

HSAR has also provided dogs for the National Search Dog Foundation. One such dog, Jester, was hours away from euthanasia when HSAR rescued him. Seeing that he had potential as a search and rescue dog, he was donated to NSDF, where he ultimately became FEMA certified and was named “Dog of the Year.”

In addition to working with other organizations, HSAR works directly with many individuals to work toward their mission of no more homeless pets. Volunteers play a big role in helping dogs get adopted. Volunteers help socialize the dogs, act as their advocates, and/or work as adoption counselors. Volunteers also help pick up donated food from the Nevada Humane Society, another partner in the region.

A strong and competent board of directors focuses on the strategic direction of the organization. The board is all-volunteer and meets monthly, as well as for scheduled sub-committee meetings and twice yearly strategic planning meetings — an indication of just how important strategic planning is for HSAR’s long-term success.

Since the beginning, HSAR has worked directly with a certified dog trainer PJ Wangsness to address behavioral issues early on. Adopters are also able to access this resource, and follow-ups with the adopter aim to identify any issues that can be worked on.

Wangsness visits the shelter twice monthly to train staff and volunteers, and assist prior adopters. Dogs with special behavioral needs are assessed and given a protocol for staff and volunteers to work on, with the goal of improving the dogs’ behavior and helping them be adopted.

Critical support

A small staff provides the daily care for the animals. The kennels are disinfected each morning, while the dogs run in one of the many outdoor yards. Many of the dogs are paired up with a kennel mate, which helps them feel secure and prevents many behavioral issues. Each dog is given a cot with a clean blanket each day, and nutritious food and any necessary medications or treatment.

All dogs at HSAR are given appropriate vaccinations, micro chipped, and spayed or neutered before being adopted.

Running a successful shelter like HSAR takes not just dedication but a steady stream of income. Donors to the organization are from all over the country, though most are from northern California and Nevada. Some donors might give $10, while a few give thousands. An average donation to the shelter is around $50. All donors are integral to HSAR’s success and mission to save local homeless dogs from euthanasia, and to advance pet welfare in the region.

In 1999, 500 adoptable pets were being euthanized each year in Plumas County. Since HSAR’s inception that same year, the group has saved over 4,200 homeless pets.

“HSAR is like a big family, and we depend on the support of so many people. From the other rescue groups we work with locally, to the many volunteers who dedicate their time, to the generous donors who make our work possible, together we are on this mission. All of the lives we are able to save would not be possible without this support,” says Rodrigues.

Donations in any amount will help the rescue continue its important community service, and are tax deductible. Last year HSAR launched a monthly giving platform, Guardians of HSAR, to help balance the budget and save more lives. Guardians make a recurring, monthly donation in an amount of their choosing. Ten dollars a month helps vaccinate one dog against rabies, while 50 dollars a month will help spay or neuter one dog before adoption.

To find out more, or to become a Guardian of HSAR by making a recurring, monthly donation, please contact the shelter at  832-4727 or [email protected]. Adoptable dogs and other information can be found by contacting the organization or viewing their website at HighSierraAnimalRescue.org.

Top 10 reasons to adopt from High Sierra Animal Rescue

10. Public Awareness: HSAR provides local community outreach and humane education.

9. Temperament: HSAR assesses temperament before taking a dog from a county shelter.

8. Health: HSAR dogs are up-to-date on vaccinations, are heartworm tested (if age appropriate) and seen by a vet when needed.

7. Responsibility: HSAR dogs have been spayed or neutered.

6. Security: HSAR dogs are micro-chipped so they can always find their way home.

5. Environment: HSAR dogs go through a unique wellness program to reduce stress.

4. Matchmaking: HSAR works hard to find the best fit and place dogs into their forever home.

3. Assistance: HSAR provides support and resources during the re-homing process and beyond.

2. Guarantee: You can return your dog to HSAR for any reason any time.

1. Saving Lives: You will be saving the life of a dog that will always be there for you!

One thought on “High Sierra Animal Rescue: The commitment that sets them apart

  • We got our sweet boy Gromit from HSAR after he was returned to them at the age of three. They do great work there!

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