Local resident’s Wet Noses Rescue finds safe spaces for dogs and cats

Pups given new life by Wet Noses Rescue, which operates out of Mexico and Rancho Santa Fe.
(Kristi Lahr)

With her rescue organization Wet Noses, Rancho Santa Fe resident Kristi Lahr has been able to rescue 600 animals in just the past two years.

Operating between Rancho Santa Fe and Mexico, Wet Noses’ mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and find homes for animals that are most in need, often working with dogs and cats who are extremely sick, abandoned, neglected and abused. While many people can say that they have a passion for animals, Lahr puts her passion into action: She puts her whole heart into bringing animals back to life and getting them into a safe and loving home. She is always willing to help, rarely says no to a distress call and has frequently pulled her car over to rescue a dog left in the street.

Wet Noses founder Kristi Lahr.
(Wet Noses Rescue)

Wet Noses got its start after Lahr and her husband Nils went on vacation to Punta Mita, Mexico right before the pandemic hit. As non-essential travel was discouraged, they ended up staying in Mexico for five months. While living there, Kristi was crushed by the number of animals she saw living on the street, in horrible condition.

“By the time we left, we left with 12 dogs we had rescued,” Lahr said. They got all of the the animals adopted prior to coming back to America and chartered a plane to bring them to their forever homes.

As the couple splits time between Mexico and Rancho Santa Fe, they decided to open a vet clinic and shelter in Punta Mita. The clinic has five vets and the best quality equipment—they are able to help the community and charge the least amount they can. They also started doing spay and neuter clinics in town.

A shelter neighbor saw what they were doing highlighted in a local paper in Sayulita and gave them a $500 donation. That donation kickstarted Wet Noses officially becoming a 501c3 nonprofit.

“It took off from there,” said Lahr.

The shelter and rescue is run with the help of Ixchel Guzman, a dedicated and compassionate Sayulita local.

The Lahrs also opened a restaurant in town, Casa Chucho (which translates to street dog or mutt) and all of the proceeds go to the shelter.

“He goes along with all my shenanigans,” joked Lahr of her husband of 25 years Nils, a successful entrepreneur and computer scientist who, along with Kristi, had always dreamed of opening a shelter.

“There are a lot of dogs there and we take in really sick, like the worst of the worst animals,” said Lahr, a former registered nurse who previously worked in the hospital burn unit. “We do everything we can. I rarely put an animal to sleep, I do everything we can to help the animals.”

Kristi ends up bringing the sickest dogs back to her Rancho Santa Fe house to take care of them—she has dogs who are paralyzed, dogs that are blind, diabetic and in kidney failure.

In rescue, Kristi has seen things that have broken her heart. So many animals abandoned or abused, left malnourished and suffering, nothing but skin and bones. She’s witnessed dogs being kicked on the street for no reason.

But in their short tenure, Wet Noses has had multiple amazing and heartwarming transformation stories—like Zack, who was found paralyzed in a box, covered in fleas and ticks. Despite having a broken spine and being filled with fear, he gained confidence in his loving foster home and learned to drag himself around. He was gifted with wheels for his back legs and found a forever home with other dogs.

The rescue also took in another shepherd pup named Nouba whom they thought was paralyzed for life but she eventually gained the strength to walk again and is now happy in her new home with a new family.

So many pups and kitties taken off the streets of Mexico are now living their best lives in new homes across the country and even Canada.

“It’s really hard work and it’s really rewarding,” Lahr said.

Some of the animals Lahr hasn’t been able to part with—like a four-pound pup named Willy, whom she calls “Little Dude”. Willy, a “super cute” poodle mix, was hit with a large stick and paralyzed when he was just eight months old, left on the street for six weeks fending for himself.

“I brought him back here, he’s mine now,” said Lahr of Willy.

Lahr also understands that education plays a big part in making a difference in Mexico. Locally in Punta Mita, she stresses the importance of neutering and spaying pets, and partnered with a local school to make coloring books for kids. The book aims to teach that animals have feelings too, that just like people hurt, animals also hurt when they are mistreated or carelessly left in the street.

Currently Wet Noses has about 70 dogs and 70 cats at the shelter in Mexico. Lahr said their shelter is really nice, complete with a catio, and an “amazing” staff and volunteers handle care and adoptions. She doesn’t like keeping old dogs at the shelter—anytime Wet Noses gets an older dog, she tries to get them out and into a home as soon as possible.

She doesn’t have a ton of help yet in San Diego because, as she said, many people still don’t know Wet Noses exists. She is always looking for help with fosters, “flight angels” to help transport dogs and donations to support the shelter.

And Wet Noses is also always looking for animal lovers willing to give a furry friend a safe and loving home. Lots of dogs and cats are available for adoption at