Stories

Hudson Valley Animal Rescue – For The Love Of Animals

November 7, 2019 Celie Wiltse

My name is Celie Wiltse. I founded HVARS in 2013 but have been rescuing animals for as long as I can remember. 

Growing up on the Wiltse farm, I was exposed to animals from a very young age. My mother Rose was known to take in any type of stray animal you could imagine. She always had several dogs & many cats amongst our household. We had an owl, fawns, litters of dogs & so much more. My childhood friends rave about how it was always an adventure with my mother because you never knew what she would come home with! Animal rescue runs in my blood & the love for animals has been instilled in me since I was little. The property that HVARS is on now has been in the family for over 100 years.

As I grew older, I began to take in strays of my own & got my own crazy reputation with my friends & family. At one point, I had a skunk wintering over in my house, prairie dogs, a wolf and so much more. My kid’s friends would love coming over just to come along for the crazy ride that was our everyday life. There was never a time when I had less than 7 dogs and a dozen cats living in my house. 

For many years, I took in wildlife & rehabilitated them just as my mom had taught me to do. People just knew to bring animals to me & I would take care of them. I finally took the step to become a licensed wildlife rehabilitator & am now one of the very few rehabbers in our area who rehabilitate RVS (rabies vector species).

I absolutely loved wildlife rehabilitation but wanted to learn more. In 2007, my daughter Nicole and I decided to go to SUNY Ulster for Vet Tech School. On day one of class, I stood in the shower and thought to myself, what am I doing?! I’m not going to class today. Little did I know, that would be the day that I would find my true passion.

I also found one of my best friends that day – Beth. She has stuck by my side till this day & is now the HVARS Shelter Manager.

Being a mom with four kids while doing wildlife rehabilitation on the side was not easy. It took me four years to get my degree but I powered through and finished.

In 2011, as a way to fund the wildlife rehabilitation that was so demanding and costly for a single person, I decided to open up a mobile hospital offering low cost spay, neuter, vaccines & basic tests for my community. I was working with one vet performing surgeries just one day a week. I quickly realized the absolute need for a low cost clinic in our area. We were so busy that even in the winter time we had to perform surgeries in one of the apartments on the property that we turned into a hospital.

As our appointment book grew & grew, we knew that we would quickly outgrow our little mobile clinic.

In 2012, we started pulling cats from Animal Care & Control in NYC as well as taking in cats from our local community. We would fully vet the cats then adopt them out to loving homes. It started as just a few but as so many of us know, the cat population is overwhelming. We just had to find a way to help more animals.

Shortly after, we made our first big screen debut – Too Cute! on Animal Planet. 

The following year we started pulling dogs from shelters down south. I vividly remember sitting in the Tampa, FL airport on our way to a medical conference to get ideas for our stationary hospital. We received a plea email asking for rescue of a litter of puppies with mange at a high kill shelter in South Carolina. We decided to go for it and haven’t stopped since.

Around this time is when my daughter Sam really started to take on the family tradition. After graduating high school early, she started Vet Tech classes at SUNY Ulster & running the rescue & clinic.

While I now do more of the building & creating, Sam runs the entire rescue full time. She is the hardest working 24-year-old I have ever met! She is in charge of hiring staff, pulling animals from shelters, adoptions, coordinating transports, assisting with surgery and SO MUCH MORE.

She lives & breathes animal rescue and I couldn’t be more proud of her.

It took us over two years to build our stationary hospital that we now call our home. With the help of my good friend Bob, we were able to put in lots of hard work and give ourselves a beautiful space to help as many animals as we possibly can. We converted a beautiful old dairy barn that has been a part of our family for over 100 years to what is now our hospital & area for our rescue animals.

We are still in the process of renovating different buildings on the property to make dog & cat habitats to be able to take on even more rescues!

We are so grateful for all of the help from our friends, family, & local community to get where we are today. We are incredibly excited for the future and for the opportunity to save even more animals!

Hudson Valley Animal Rescue & Sanctuary (HVARS) is a 501c3 non profit animal rescue, wildlife rehabilitation center & Low Cost vet service clinic.

HVARS rescues & adopts out over 700 dogs, cats, pocket pets and a few farm animals each year. We have low cost vet services 4 day a week, 1 full time veterinarian and 3 part time veterinarians. We now have the ability to perform many types of surgeries, not only spaying & neutering, along with healthcare visits, x-rays, dentals, bloodwork and so much more than we were able to do before. We currently have the capacity to hold around 60 dogs and 80 cats. All of our adoptable animals come from high kill shelters in the south, local owner surrenders and local strays. All of our animals are fully vaccinated, spayed/neutered, microchipped and dewormed prior to being up for adoption and leaving our facility.