South Shore-based Dawgs On The Run formed in 2011 with multiple objectives in mind: to educate the public on responsible pet ownership, to promote this ownership as a lifetime commitment and to raise funds that would go back to the lake-wide community.
The small nonprofit owes its existence to the changing laws that regulated where pets could and could not be taken in the Tahoe Basin.
"It seemed like dogs were losing more and more territory — we couldn't take them to certain beaches anymore, and we weren't allowed to take pets here and there. I think a lot of that was because some areas were being littered with dog feces, but that's not the dog's fault. That's the owner's fault because they're not cleaning up after themselves," said Mireya Ortega, Dawgs On The Run co-founder and current president of the organization.
"We wanted to get something started to educate people; we need to be more responsible pet owners. Things evolved from there."
What began as a multi-tasking nonprofit that held carnival fundraisers, created pamphlets focused on local dog-friendly areas and related laws, and hosted regular events, has now transformed into an organization that carries out a few of its original programs while also providing new services and donating grant money. (The carnival — which featured dog-friendly games and donated proceeds to other animal-focused organizations — was held a few times before it was scratched from the budget due to its expense.)
One of the founding events that Dawgs On The Run still offers is its Wag, Waddle and Walk sessions. These community outreach walks welcome leashed dogs and their owners to leisurely stroll at different locations — and it gives organization members a chance to spread information about their overall mission.
Within the past year, Dawgs On The Run has implemented two new offerings — one of which is a voucher-based food program, a service provided in conjunction with Dog Dog Cat, the pet store located in the Tahoe Crescent V Shopping Center.
"Community members who want to be considered to get food fill out an application, we give them a voucher and they redeem it at Dog Dog Cat. It's high quality food, and that way they're assured it's not going to expire," said Ortega.
The other recent addition is the yearly grant cycle. Money is raised through community events like rummage sales (this year's fundraisers have yet to be decided), along with membership fees. While total donations are somewhat small — last year's grant was $700 — donated funds have a large impact, according to Ortega.
"Groups that applied have been Pet Network Humane Society, WARF [Wylie Animal Rescue Foundation]… they needed funds for a variety of reasons: spay and neuter, food and vet bills," she said.
"We're not raising thousands of dollars, but we're hoping that whatever we do raise is of help to the community."
Dawgs On The Run will notify nonprofits when the grant cycle begins, and organizations will then be able to submit proposals that identify the needed amount of money and how it will be used. Information is then dispersed to Dawgs On The Run members, and a vote determines which applicant will be awarded the grant.
Nearly all funds raised by Dawgs On The Run go back to its grant program: A majority of member fees goes towards the pool, and money from events like the organization's annual Black Tie Gala is attributed to the grant as well. Of all funds, 20 percent is held for the food program and 10 percent for administrative responsibilities (mainly, hiring an accountant to complete taxes, according to Ortega).
"We've evolved over the years. Right now our primary focus is to raise money and provide funds for nonprofits in the community, but our mission hasn't changed," Ortega said.
Visit http://www.dawgsontherun.org to learn more about the nonprofit and how to get involved.