Big Sky Ranch celebrates 10-year anniversary

“We cater to the three most important things in the world – kids, seniors and animals.”

This article was first published in the EMC Community Newspaper on September 13, 2013.


EMC News – It shouldn’t cost a lot to give love.
This has been the foundation of Big Sky Ranch Animal Sanctuary for the past decade.
“We don’t make money off the animals,” said Andy Parent, owner of BSR and North Grenville Animal Control Officer. “We survive off donations and holding events.”
Parent, who feels the BSR found him rather than vice versa, believes in providing a second chance to animals who have been abused, neglected or forgotten. “Animals don’t judge people,” said Parent. “They don’t care what language you speak or what you look like.”
BSR is the only non-kill animal sanctuary of its kind in all of Eastern Ontario. “We don’t believe you should put animals down for no reason,” said Parent. “Only if they’re in pain or suffering or at the end of their life.”
Parent was living in Ottawa 10 years ago, when one day he picked up a Penny Saver – something he never did – and the home at 810 Pelton Road jumped off the page at him.
“I didn’t even own a dog at the time,” he said.
Parent came out to look at the house and immediately had the feeling he was exactly where he needed to be. From the moment he laid eyes on the house, he knew he had to buy it.
“Sometimes, things in life find you,” said Parent.
Two weeks later, Parent got his first dog dropped off, by a friend who knew he wasn’t being treated properly. The dog’s name was Bear and he was part German shepherd and part wolf.
“That’s when I realized animals do need people,” said Parent. “He was my shadow.”
Years later, when Bear died, Parent had him cremated and intends to be buried with his ashes.
After taking in Bear, people got wind of Parent accepting unwanted animals and the rest is history. “I took them all in,” he said. “I just kept saying yes.
Now, we take in animals from all over Ontario, Quebec and New York.”
Parent said there are many reasons people lose their pets, not just due to abuse or neglect. Some people pass away, lose their farm or have to go into a senior’s home where pets are not welcome. The number one reason pets arrive on Parent’s doorstep, believe it or not, is because of break-ups.
“I would say about 65 per cent of the time it’s because of break-ups,” he explained. “A couple goes out and buys a puppy and then they break up, but half the dog belongs to the woman and the other half belongs to the man. Both of them have to move into a smaller place, like an apartment and can’t take a bigger dog with them. The dog becomes second fiddle.”
Parent said he has seen a lot of things over the years, but has always maintained his focus on providing love to the animals. “It’s what makes this place so unique. We give them love and show them that people care. When they eventually get adopted, they already know what love is.”
Since opening BSR on Oct. 2, 2002, the sanctuary has been a paramount factor in the adoption of 1,700 animals. Currently, there are 90 animals living at the sanctuary.
“We really care about the animals,” said Parent. “We started off rescuing animals and now I get to watch animals rescue people, which is a beautiful thing.” Parent is the perfect spokesperson for animals, as he truly believes in giving second chances, not just to the animals, but people too.
BSR is involved with Community Living groups in Kemptville and Ottawa, the youth court systems of Brockville and Ottawa, the Dalhousie House for Troubled Boys, the Children’s Aid Society, groups from the Autism Society and 14 seniors’ homes in the area.
“Most people in senior homes used to have a farm,” said Parent. “It is so touching to see the animals bring back memories for them.”
Currently, BSR has four co-op students and 32 youth volunteers, some of whom travel great distances to help out at the sanctuary. “Big Sky Ranch draws a lot of people to the area,” said Parent.
He is a big believer in community spirit and promotes North Grenville wherever he goes. “I give speeches at colleges and universities. I always mention Kemptville and talk about how great it is.”
Parent said BSR gives a lot to the community and brings in a lot of business. “On an average weekend, we have between 150 and 200 come out here,” said Parent.
In fact, some of the dogs Parent takes in don’t even make it onto the website before getting adopted.
The popularity of BSR is due to the unique nature of the non-profit organization, as well as extensive amounts of media coverage. “It amazes me to see how far it’s come in the last 10 years,” said Parent. “We cater to the three most important things in the world – kids, seniors and animals.”