Meet Our Team

Our Board of Directors

Heidi Neilson, Acting President & Chairman of the Board

Hi Everyone.  Growing up on a ranch, I was constantly bringing home small babies of all species to try and care for them.  Everything from birds, to cats, to dogs.  It is a character trait that has continued throughout my adult life; I just can’t help but take care of creatures.  I have been a paramedic for 20 years and a firefighter paramedic for 15 years with East Fork Fire Protection District in Minden, Nevada.  My husband of 22+ years and I have quite the menagerie on our little ranch. We have eight horses, two llamas, six dogs, a pig, a few head of cattle, and a feral cat.  Some things just never change!

Wendy Rader, Event Coordinator

Jean and I (on the left) embarking on a journey to our first Animal Rescue Relay booth at the Reno Pet Show and Pug Parade in March 2018. As a previous parent of a senior pup and pet sitter for friends and family (my rental doesn’t allow pets), I joined Animal Rescue Relay to help move pets from high-kill or unhappy situations to new foster or forever homes. So many folks today would love to be responsible pet parents and give a rescue a new home, especially to pets who need immediate rescuing from shelters in remote towns or places with pet overpopulations. The Animal Rescue Relay service and volunteers help remove the limits of transportation for new pet parents, giving these pets opportunities to be rescued from pet lovers outside their vicinity. For this reason, I very much wanted to be a part of ARR.

With my 10+ years of project management experience at Microsoft and current job as Community Director at, a wellness app startup, I came aboard to help coordinate events for ARR. Events include education and fundraising opportunities, and we are always looking for occasions to participate in local community events. Please feel free to contact us to let us know about your upcoming expo or event. And, to our supporters and volunteers, thank you very much for your help, and when we have an event, please stop by. I very much would like to meet you!

Kelly Pettit-Lopez, Director

Hi everyone. I’m Kelly, one of the directors of Animal Rescue Relay. Where do I begin? Growing up in Wyoming, I was always bringing home stray dogs and cats, even though dad said, “No more!”

Eventually, I moved to Lake Tahoe where I met my partner in crime (rescue), Heidi Neilson, in paramedic school 20 years ago. I’ve been a Fire Fighter Medic for 19 yrs with Tahoe Douglas Fire District. About 8 months ago, Heidi said, “Hey you want to go to Fresno and pick up some dogs?” We came back with 7 dogs and a goat, and I came back with a new passion, Animal Rescue Relay!

I can’t begin to express the complete joy from saving all these animals’ lives and I have met some of the most amazing people. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Thanks guys for add this to my life.

Oh! I forgot to mention my hubby of 9yrs.

Jessica Stone, Web Manager

Hello everyone! I’m Jessica, the new social media and web manager for the organization. I have always loved animals, and grew up with dogs in the home. Now I live with my two rescue cats (Rorschach, seen yelling in the photo above, and Tiki, also seen above wondering why Rorschach is yelling) and a leopard gecko. I’m looking forward to helping out with the online presence to get all of the adoptable animals and success stories seen by as wide an audience as possible!

Nikki Foster, Secretary

Hi, All!  I’m Nikki and this is my rescue pup, Winky.  Formerly, I have been a veterinary technician.  My current day job is manager of a wine bar.  I am also the mother of two teens and two furbabies.  But I have been an animal lover since birth.  Please feel free to email me, ( if you are interested in becoming a transporter or foster or just looking for more info! If you know of shelters or foster networks in your area, PLEASE feel free send those, too!