Giving Rescued Animals A Second Chance At Love And Family – Rescue Ranch

Last Updated 3/7/2024In Inspring Iredell

By Kristie Darling

The first rescued animal I met at Rescue Ranch was Chick-fil-A, approximately 2,000 pounds of beautiful, beloved steer. He hangs out in the barnyard with his buddies Otis and Charlie. Then, up close and personal, I met Lightning Bolt. He scurried underfoot during my visit while his enclosure was cleaned. He smiled, scampered about, played with his toys and Amy’s foot. Lightning Bolt is one of 82 rescued animals, large and small, who now enjoy living in style, cared for by volunteers and staff who love them in a big way, every day. Lightning Bolt is a ferret.

Krissie Newman has inspired our community to do more for animals by gathering around her compassionate people who love them. She founded Rescue Ranch in North Statesville in 2012. “We’re in the business of saving lives,” she said. ”Each day, thousands of animals are mistreated, abandoned, and euthanized. We’re not only doing adoptions and helping animals find their forever homes, we are changing the mentality of kids and people all over the country.”

The mission and work of Rescue Ranch is inspiring, specialized, and important—one that every pet owner and animal lover holds dear to their heart: Our goal is to enhance the human-animal bond in all of us. We promote and facilitate rehabilitation, rescue, and responsible pet ownership. Our dedicated team of about a dozen staff and scores of volunteers do this through ongoing education programs and an enduring respect for all animals. Hand-in-hand with caring for these animals are Rescue Ranch’s agricultural, environmental, and wildlife conservation goals.

Who Are These Animals?

“All our animals are Ambassadors,” said Michelle Hepler, executive director at Rescue Ranch. “And all of our Ambassadors have a unique story to share. I truly believe in this organization and what we do.” Michelle’s first day on the job was April 1st. She has an extensive background in experiential education and working in the great outdoors—she is a woman who loves adventure. “I was born and raised here, so I am thrilled to serve this organization by doing this work in our communities. I love it that no matter their circumstances, these animals can live the rest of their lives here. We love giving them a good life.”

The Rescue Ranch assortment of creatures have been saved from abusive settings, neglect, abandonment, and hoarding. About half live indoors, the rest outdoors. Animals include feathered, scaled, hooved, furry, hairy, wooly, horned, and slithery. Can you guess? Turkeys Thelma and Louise, roosters, iguanas, miniature horses, steer, sheep, pot-bellied pigs, chinchillas, rabbits, ferrets, and of course, my favorite, snakes. I met Hanger, a ball python who was rescued from local Animal Services after he was found in an abandoned apartment closet. “The Ranch is a new place for him to hang out,” Krissie said. “One of my favorite programs when teaching at the Ranch are our lessons about snakes. It’s amazing to really see a change from fear…to curiosity…to excitement.”

Foster & Adoption Program

“We’ve been planning for years, and our Foster & Adoption Program is now fully underway,” Krissie shared with a smile. Foster & Adopt is all about rescuing companion animals from kill shelters and placing them in foster homes for adoption then into their forever home. Fostering includes all medical expenses, food, collar and leash, toys, a bed, crate—whatever’s needed. All vet appointments are set up, and your foster pet is suitably chosen for your household and lifestyle. All you need is a loving home. 

Animal Humane Education

The main building on campus is the Humane Education Building. It’s here that Humane Education (who knew that’s a thing?) is offered to guests and visitors. For some children, it’s the start of a lifetime of loving and respecting animals. “We teach and tell our story in and out of the building,” said Allyson Floyd, humane education manager. “We focus on the importance of rescuing through hands-on-learning and caring for animals. Kids see this happening in real time…they love our animals. This main building also provides space to house some of our smaller animals and lets visitors see them up close. They meet the bigger farm animals in the barnyard and barn.”

Kids & Grown-Ups at Rescue Ranch

Programs for young children, students, and adults are specially developed to engage visitors’ imagination and compassion around what animals are all about and why caring for them is so important. They’ll have hands-on encounters with the Ambassadors…they begin to learn through experience why it’s critical for humans to speak up and act when animals need our help.

Rescue Ranch’s age-appropriate camps and programs teach by example how to care for animals and they share that dedication with others. Volunteers and junior counselors are recruited to work alongside staff. 

Support The Work... Get Involved

“Every aspect of the Ranch—educational programs, nature trails, adoptions, special events, volunteer opportunities, and of course, our amazing Animal Ambassadors, come from the needs in our community and beyond,” Krissie explained. “I am inspired by the people I meet each day…and their stories. Every time I pull into the Ranch, I see more and more potential for growth. We are 10 years in, and I am just getting started.” Indeed, Rescue Ranch celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2022!

Rescue Ranch is primarily supported by the greater animal-loving community through the generosity of individual and corporate donors. As director of development, Amy’s job is to keep that support coming in now and for years to come. The annual fundraising dinner, scheduled for August 20, 2022, is just one of many events that bring in needed dollars, and although she gets help telling the story from the Animal Ambassadors, Amy always welcomes support through donations, planned legacy giving, sponsorships, in-kind gifts, and volunteers all year. “We can tell you how to put Rescue Ranch in your will or trust; we can explore how your business can help. There are many ways to get involved,” Amy explained.

Michelle talked about wanting to grow programs and events at Rescue Ranch. “I’d like to see the property enhanced and developed to its highest potential. I already feel supported by a dynamic staff, and we see countless opportunities to collaborate and partner in the community. We welcome all types of support as we improve animal welfare and educate the public about this critical work.”

This is a good time of year to think about the responsibilities of animal ownership, when bunnies, chicks, and ducklings are too often made into gifts. Kittens and puppies, too. If you have any questions about what it means to bring an animal into your home, don’t hesitate to call Rescue Ranch…questions are free and the advice you’ll get is priceless.

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