Over the last decade, Big Dog Ranch Rescue has found a home for more than 31,000 dogs, but founder Lauree Simmons clearly recalls her first canine client back in 2008. It was a lab mix named Angel, who was pregnant, homeless and living under a tree in Miami.
Two days later, Angel gave birth to 10 puppies in Simmons’ garage. In many respects, Angel is the “acorn” that blossomed into the tree now known as the Big Dog Ranch Rescue.
Today, Big Dog Ranch Rescue is dedicated to rescuing and providing a happy, safe and loving home for dogs while providing families with healthy, loving and loyal canine companions. Located on 33 acres in Loxahatchee Groves, the rescue is a cage-free setting. In fact, it is the largest cage-free, no-kill shelter in the U.S.
“We have built a happy environment for dogs,” explained Robin Friedman, Big Dog Ranch Rescue’s director of development. “Our focus is rescue. We save dogs from shelters that are on the list to be euthanized, and we accept owner-surrender dogs. We also try to find homes for rescue dogs by networking with other shelters like us.”
At Big Dog Ranch Rescue, dogs are saved and then given a new lease on life. While the organization’s name indicates that it’s a safe haven for big dogs, in reality, dogs of all sizes can be adopted through the organization.
“We have at least one of every type of dog,” Friedman said.
Currently, roughly 500 grown dogs and 100 puppies live at Big Dog Ranch Rescue. But once dogs arrive here, they are often adopted in less than three months, Friedman said. Puppies are adopted the quickest.
Once dogs arrive, they are fed healthy food and given lots of TLC. “Big Dog Ranch Rescue is the way the rescue experience should be for all dogs,” Friedman said. “We rescue dogs of all sizes, provide the necessary medical care, and find them their perfect forever homes. Big and small, we save them all.”
Most of its dogs come from shelters in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. However, during natural and humanitarian disasters, the organization reaches out to help.
Following devastating hurricanes, Big Dog Ranch Rescue provided food drops and rescued dogs from Puerto Rico, the British Virgin Islands and the coastal U.S. And recently, following a request from monks saving dogs from the Chinese dog meat trade, the organization began work with an Asian counterpart to provide assistance.
The dogs from China are often less than a year old. “Getting healthy dogs delivered from China has its challenges,” Friedman said. “Logistically, it’s difficult, but we figured it out.”
Friedman emphasized that her group remains local-focused, but humanitarian issues and disasters trigger their efforts to save dogs from other parts of the country and the world.
Big Dog Ranch Rescue is also specially equipped to house pregnant dogs,
Canine mothers and their puppies are housed in Puppyland, which features 10 small structures, each one specially equipped to care for mother dogs and her litter. Puppyland is sponsored by Rachael Ray Nutrish, which also donates most of the food fed to the dogs at Big Dog Ranch Rescue.
Other programs help senior citizens and cater to military veterans.
According to Friedman, Seniors for Seniors is focused on getting older dogs, which are at least six years old, trained to visit senior citizens living in retirement homes. Seniors, who often want an older canine companion, can also adopt a senior dog.
“Our Seniors for Seniors program improves the lives of senior citizens,” Friedman said. “We are also currently training 24 dogs to become companions for the Veterans Service Dog Training Program. It helps veterans with PTSD.”
If you are interested in supporting Big Dog Ranch Rescue and love to have a good time, the third annual Big Dog Ranch Rescue Valentine’s Night Out helps unite the local horse and dog-loving communities. The next one is set for Friday, Feb. 14, 2020.
“It’s a great time and attracts strong interest from Wellington’s dog-loving equestrian crowd,” Friedman said. “We are fortunate to have many fosters, adopters, donors and friends from the equestrian world.”
Adoption fees vary. For example, puppies are $350, adult dogs are $250 and senior dogs are $150.
While these adoption fees generate money for Big Dog Ranch Rescue, the majority of its income comes from outside sources. Big Dog Ranch Rescue’s biggest benefactor is the Fleming Family Foundation.
“We rely mostly on donations,” Friedman said. “Adoption fees cover a fraction of the costs to save a dog. We rely on the generosity of our supporters to further our mission to save more lives.”
Big Dog Ranch Rescue is located at 14444 Okeechobee Blvd. in Loxahatchee Groves. If you feel that you can provide a happy, safe and loving home for a dog, drop by between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., call them at (561) 791-6465 or check out the list of available dogs at www.bdrr.org.