Lola the Pig. Credit: Vegan Camera Project

Supporters of the popular Big Sky Ranch Animal Sanctuary got some disappointing news late last month when it was announced that the Sanctuary would be closing down for good. The Sanctuary – which is located just outside of Pelton’s Corners – has been in operation for 17 years, founded by the late Andy Parent. The Sanctuary was closed to the visiting public at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, and was subsequently open only to volunteers who cared for the animals. 

When founder Andy Parent passed away in April of 2021, the possibility of keeping the Sanctuary open long-term was explored. However, last month, it was determined that the Sanctuary will no longer be able to continue on in the way that it did in the past. 

Debbie Purkiss, one of the board members of Big Sky Ranch, confirmed that the Sanctuary never re-opened to the public after the COVID-19 closure, although hardworking volunteers have been on site steadily since the initial closure. She was unable to elaborate on the reason for the permanent closure decision, saying only that there are multiple reasons which there is no sense in dwelling on. 

Big Sky Ranch started as a hobby farm when Andy purchased the property simply to keep a couple of horses and enjoy the property recreationally on weekends. Debbie relayed a story that has been passed down from Andy and others. Soon after Andy purchased the property, someone asked if they could drop off a dog at the property for Andy to look after. This led to a request to leave a cat on the property, followed by a small horse, and everything simply “snowballed” from there. “Andy got to the point where he had invested a lot of his RRSP money and personal money to build the place up,” Debbie added. “So then he decided it was time to do something, and he registered the place as a charity.”

Big Sky Ranch has helped over 3,500 animals since opening 17 years ago. The amazing care and support that has been provided to the animals over the years will not come to an end. Thankfully, another facility called Sweet Sanctuary – based in Carleton Place – will be taking in most of the animals from Big Sky Ranch. Like Big Sky Ranch, Sweet Sanctuary is a registered charity. Debbie explained that one difference is that Sweet Sanctuary is a permanent home for the animals who live there – Big Sky Ranch, in contrast, has always been a temporary home for animals who would eventually be adopted. 

The animals have always been the biggest priority for those who have contributed to the love of Big Sky Ranch over the years. The stories of these animals as they are gradually transitioned to their new home will be available on the Big Sky Ranch Facebook page at

“We would like to thank all who supported the sanctuary over the years – our volunteers, sponsors, community partners, donors, and the many people who adopted animals from us,” reads a Big Sky Ranch social media post. “Thank you also to those who chose to bring their animals to us and entrusted us with finding them wonderful new homes. You have all been an integral part of our amazing journey over the past 17 years.”

Supporters of Big Sky Ranch can continue to help by donating to Sweet Sanctuary. Encouraging such donations to ensure the enduring legacy of Andy and Big Sky Ranch is a goal of the Big Sky Ranch board of directors. Photos of Sweet Sanctuary can be viewed, and donations can be made, at


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