West Michigan native helping animals survive and thrive in Honduras

Posted at 10:35 PM, May 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-02 23:31:17-04

ROATAN, Honduras — A west Michigan native has turned a vacation into her life’s passion, helping animals in what is now believed to be the largest animal sanctuary in Honduras. Janessa Baar moved to the island of Roatan, just north the mainland of Honduras, in late 2018. “When we were in Roatan, I absolutely felt a calling. The streets were just lined with skeleton dogs, the amount of things that I’ve seen I can’t unsee,” Baar told Fox 17.

Taking care of others was already part of Baar’s life, having spent nearly two decades as “Big Sister” youth mentor in west Michigan, but this was different. “I mean it was really bad. So I just started one animal and one kid at a time, pushing a wheelbarrow with a bunch of kids following me.” Janessa feeds 50 kids each day, but it’s the awareness and compassion that she teaches those same kids that is trickling down to the animals in what has become Roatan Rescue.

“I drop feed off, they go around and feed the strays, let us know if there’s any medical needs. It’s beautiful I love seeing all the kids run and help the animals. So we have horses, chickens, dogs and cats right now. Our mission statement is to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome animals in need.” Roatan Rescue has already rehomed animals to at-least seven states in U.S. including west Michigan, Baar told Fox 17 they are actively trying to charter a plane to get 50 more dogs to Miami, Florida.

Roatan Rescue has 25 full-time employees and two full-time veterinarians who, among other surgeries, perform 100 spays and neuters each month. Baar’s rescue is 100% donation based, explaining to Fox 17, “We’re around $34,000 a month for 450 animals, all the kids, everything. We spend a ton on medicine. $8200 dollars a month in feed. It averages out $2.45 an animal a day.” And like so many others around the world, the pandemic has made reaching her monthly budget that much tougher. “Every month is pray and hope and we do our best.”

Despite how ugly things were when Janessa first started, she says she is thrilled with the difference her organization has made in such a short time. “There’s a lot of sadness still, but there’s so much beauty now. Seeing the healthy rescues that we have all over the island back in their forever homes. Dogs in wheelchairs that were just dragging themselves. It’s beautiful to see people walking their dogs with harnesses on and leashes and not tied up with electrical rope. It has just been a crazy huge life changing event. The streets aren’t lined with starving animals.”

If you’d like to help contribute to the work she is doing, go to or to follow the progress of her mission, go to