Reduce text size Increase text size
Reduce text size

Big Sky Ranch Animal Sanctuary: A Great Reason to Visit Kemptville

by Susan Campbell

Approximately 2 hours southwest of Montreal is the town of Kemptville,Ontario, close to the southern end of the Rideau River and less than half an hour from Ottawa. It attracts plenty of day-trippers for kayaking and canoe adventures, farmer’s markets, haunted ghost walks, walking tours of its historic sites and annual events like the Dandelion Festival and Pirate Days. There are specialty shops, pubs, and fun, family dining spots, and the town is surrounded by pretty countryside of verdant forests and rich farmlands. And though most activities there are summer, fall, and spring oriented, there’s a reason to journey to Kemptville any time of year – especially for animal lovers – because that’s where Big Sky Ranch Animal Sanctuary is located.

“All creatures great and small deserve a second chance,” says sanctuary owner Andy Parent, a big bear of a man who himself received a second chance after a rough and troubled youth which saw him in and out of the system after his parent’s abandoned him. “I think that’s why I really resonate with the plight of neglected, abused and unwanted animals,” he says,”Because I know exactly how they feel.”  But you’d never know that Parent was anything but full of fun and positive energy as he is now, and that he attributes to his furry, four-legged and sometimes feathered charges.  “Animal love is one of the best therapies on earth,” he says.

Volunteers, visitors, and prospective animal adopters welcome

The  entire operation is non-profit and runs only on donations, sponsors, and annual fundraising events. It is the only “non-kill” sanctuary in Eastern Ontario which means that  if the animal is not adopted for any reason, they are welcome to live out the rest of their natural life there. But adoption to a good family is the objective whenever possible. As for the types of animals, it can be like Forrest Gump’s proverbial box of chocolates – you never know what you’re gonna get. Usually there are dogs, cats, and horses up for adoption, and sometimes goats, sheep, pot belly pigs, rabbits, llamas, and even more exotic creatures have showed up  like a buffalo, a reindeer, and even an emu! There may also be chickens, ducks, and geese running around. Whatever the species,  if it needs a home, it won’t be turned away. But taking care of  the eclectic cast of critters takes a lot of manpower (and money) so volunteers are always welcome, and visitors are always encouraged to pitch in. There’s no shortage of things to do and the animals enjoy human attention.

Education is key

The ranch is also a perfect spot to bring children to help them learn about the importance of caring for creatures. Education about animal care is  an important objective of the sanctuary and they give workshops in schools, attend community events, and sometimes run a children’s day camp in the summer. Overall- though some of the back stories of these animals can be sad- the vibe and the atmosphere of the ranch is always enjoyable and light because it’s hard not to laugh at the animals’ constantly entertaining antics. There’s no doubt at all that they are the ones who really rule this particular roost!

If  you want to preview what animals might be up for adoption, visit their website- the options are always changing- or you can simply donate to their very worthy cause online. Every dollar makes a huge difference in these animal’s lives. (Big Sky is an officially registered  charity.)

Big Sky Ranch, 810 Pelton Road in Peltons Corner, Kemptville,Ontario, 613-258-7118, www.bigskyranch.ca