Donkey and Horse Rescue is A Little Country Mixed with a Lot of Love

Article by Wendie Wigginton

Photography by Holly Farrow

Originally published in Celina Lifestyle

As Celina continues to grow and building takes shape along Preston Road, it’s hard not to notice a beautiful group of donkeys grazing on grass and greeting visitors with their friendly brays at the corner of Preston and Sunset. But until the sign went up in early 2021, most people didn’t know these donkeys were rescue animals.  In fact, all of the animals (donkeys, horses, and mules) housed at the Rescue (on Preston) and at their second facility (Donkey and Equine Haven), are animals that Celina resident, Karla Vargas, and her team at Donkey and Horse Rescue have saved from North Texas kill pens. To date more than 50 of these formerly neglected, abused, and abandoned rescue animals have found their way onto local farms as pets and to help provide protection to local farmers and their livestock. 

Karla Vargas has been around equine her whole life. The youngest of 7 children, she began riding at 9 years old at her home in Guadalajara where they raised racehorses. Years later she moved to Texas bringing with her two mares and settling into the Celina area. Seven years of working with local cutting legend Punk Carter and his introducing her to her first donkey Dixie, now retired, was the driving force behind Karla’s want to rescue. 

If you take a moment and look at any donkey grazing in a pasture you will see they have a dark cross running across their shoulders and down their backs. A little spiritual research ties the cross on their backs to the carrying of Jesus to the crucifixion. Science would tell you it’s a gene driven camouflage mechanism much like you see in zebras, who may be close descendants. Karla would share that the donkey's “earthy nature" connection is really what makes them special. She also believes that donkeys are especially drawn to children because of their spiritual purity. 

Getting the animals ready to rehome takes a lot of hard work and resources.  Every animal taken from one of the local kill pens starts with a “bail” that must be paid before the animal can be rescued.  Once Karla gets the rescued donkey to the Haven the arduous process of rehabilitation begins. 

These animals come from very abusive environments that included mistreatment and starvation. The medical bills just to get them healthy comes at significant cost. This includes specialized medications, nutrition, and follow-up care including transporting them back and forth. Donkey and Horse Rescue has a wonderful relationship with Weems and Stephens Equine Hospital in Pilot Point in caring for these animals.

The emotional abuse most of these animals have endured will also require significant time to rehabilitate their hearts in addition to their bodies.  The team spends hundreds of hours working with each animal to try and get them ready for a new home. And for those animals who aren’t rehabilitated, they get to spend their years in the Rescue.   

When asked where they could use more help in addition to money to cover the costs of the food, medical care, and rehabilitation, they ask for help in the following areas:

Collecting Trash. Trash is thrown and blown into areas along the fence lines and inside the property.  Ingesting any of those items can make the animals sick and or kill them.  Any local groups or individuals willing to come by once every week and collect the trash to keep the animals' environment safe. 

Taming and Socializing.  Bring your family or group out to interact with the animals and hear their happy brays. This socialization goes a long way to getting these animals ready to rehome. Look for Marilyn Monroe and her daughter Bette Davis, both white donkeys on the property, who would love to spend time with you. Bring a couple of apples or carrots and stay a while. It will be an amazing memory for you and will have a huge impact on helping tame these beautiful animals. 

Adoption.  Do you have property that might benefit from having a Donkey?  All of the animals who are rehabilitated are up for adoption.  

For more information on how you can get involved with this organization, please visit their website at

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