By Lee Merrill

rowing up as a shy girl, Ninna Lopez discovered the unconditional love of animals. When making human friends felt awkward, she found easy companionship with her critters. Her love for animals grew right along with her, so it’s no surprise one scraggly puppy on the side of the road was all it took to turn Ninna into a champion for pets in a tough spot. “I was bullied a lot in school, so I've always had this thing for the underdog,” she said. “I really resonate with animals who don't have anyone or have been abandoned.”

After working with a local rescue for five years, Ninna founded Ninna’s Road to Rescue, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, in 2012. Located in Benton, Ninna’s Road to Rescue takes in and re-homes more than 350 animals each year, mostly small-breed dogs and a few cats. Most of the rescued animals come from kill shelters in and around northwest Louisiana. Many are rescued from abusive and neglectful situations.

The rescue provides much more than food, water, and shelter. They provide veterinary care, socialization, and tender care to build back the trust and total health of troubled animals. “We take them in and we heal them – mind, body, and soul,” Ninna said. Finding great homes for the animals is the final step, and it’s a very thorough process. “We’re not a first term first-come, first-serve rescue. We can be discretionary. And so we really check people out. We don’t want these pets in the same situation they were in or worse.” Adopters must have a history of responsible pet ownership and a reference from their veterinarian. The rescue has an adoption team that reviews each application and determines the appropriate adopter for each animal.

Ninna’s Road to Rescue has a loving army of about 50 experienced volunteers who work in shifts to provide impeccable care for their furry guests. Even during the stressful Covid shutdown months, volunteers masked up and showed up to make sure the animals never went without. Most of the volunteers are retired individuals with flexible schedules. They are always looking for compassionate adults of any age to join the volunteer team. The rescue also has a dedicated board of directors who are hands-on in the day-to-day operations. Board members are required to work at least two shifts per week to ensure they feel the pulse of the rescue’s mission. 

The rescue has an active Facebook group where they share about the animals up for adoption. They rely on supporters to share these posts to get the word out. A Facebook fundraiser is an easy way to support Ninna’s Road to Rescue. Their vet bill averages $5,000-$8,000 per month, not to mention food and other expenses.

Through Ninna’s Road to Rescue, Ninna Lopez has found her people. People who love animals like she does. People who go above and beyond to see that hurting animals get the care they need and the forever homes they deserve. If you’re an animal lover, you might find your people at Ninna’s Road to Rescue, too.