Rescue Ranch is a humane education center in the heart of Iredell County, NC that provides sanctuary and permanent residency to more than 80 rescued animals. These animals all have a story to share as they came to the Ranch from situations like neglect, hoarding, or owner surrender. They are affectionately known as Rescue Ranch’s animal ambassadors; and are an integral component of our humane education programs. Our educational programs incorporate hands-on learning to support our mission of promoting compassion and respect for all animals. 
We specialize in humane education programs for youth and families. We offer camps, field trips, scout programs, and more! When you attend one of our programs, you will learn about responsible pet ownership, empathy and compassion for animals, how animals survive in the wild, and other fun facts about our Animal Ambassadors. We pride ourselves on hands-on encounters with animals to learn why we must be the voice for animals. Since our inception in 2012, we have educated more than 35,000 people through our educational programs.

Registered Charity:  45-4345179

Our Mission

Rescue Ranch promotes, through its education, respect for all animals, as well as agricultural, environmental, and wildlife conservation, and facilitates rehabilitation, rescue, and responsible pet ownership in order to enhance the human-animal bond.

Our Vision

We intend to be the premier animal education center of its kind encompassing agricultural, wilderness and companion animal relationships as well as advocating for, and fostering kindness and understanding.

Who We Are

Our team consists of pet-passionate individuals from all over, with expertise in many areas. We work to include all members of our community to help connect and develop programs to support our mission. We hope you’ll join our cause and visit us often for programs and events!

Krissie Newman

President & Co-Founder

Since she was a little girl, Krissie Newman has always had a passion for animal welfare and educating society on responsible pet ownership. When she's not at the Ranch, you can find her with her two beautiful girls or deploying with Code 3 Associates and IFAW rescuing animals from natural disasters.

Michelle Hepler

Executive Director

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    Michelle served more than 26 years at Iredell Parks and Recreation. Michelle is passionate about the environment and creating opportunities for education and growth which led her to the Ranch. She loves to spend time outdoors camping, paddling, and hiking with her husband David and two rescued pups, Dude and Darla. 

    Cheryl Hanna

    Executive Assistant

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      Cheryl has always loved animals, especially chickens and her 3 rescued dogs.  In her free time she enjoys spending time with family, gardening and spoiling her grandkids.

      Candace Rhyne

      Accounting Manager

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        Candace has worked in the non-profit world for over 13 years. She knew at an early age when she didn't have the heart to kill a spider that she had a passion for all living things.  Especially animals! Growing up in the desert, she now enjoys North Carolina and all the nature it provides.  She spends her free time with her boys and doing creative things.  Might even catch her swimming with sharks! 

        Amy Spear

        Community and Business Relations Manager

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          Amy has always worked in non-profits trying to create a better community and world. This is her first time at an animal non-profit and we're trying to show her Snakes aren't that scary. In her free time she enjoys hanging with her family and two rescue dogs.

          Leslie Smith

          Animal Husbandry Manager

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            Leslie grew up with Lions, Tigers and Bears so it was natural for her to go to school for Zoology. Leslie is the backbone of the Ranch and pretty much lives here. In her free time she loves traveling, hanging with her two Dachshunds and her boyfriend.

            Madison Hess

            Animal Care Assistant

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              Maddie grew up with all different kinds of pets and has rescued dogs her entire life so working at the ranch has been the perfect fit! She lives on a farm with a variety of animals and has two dogs, two rats, and an eclectus parrot! Her favorite animals to work with are the rats and the birds and in her free time she loves to read, watch movies, and go to concerts!

              Jennifer Bhagirat

              Humane Education Instructor

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                Jenn grew up with animals of all kinds and has always wanted to work with animals. She's currently in school for zoology and aquarium science. Her hobbies include video games and hanging out with her scaly, furry, and feathered kids. She was terrified of snakes until she fell in love with Dante the ball python that lives at the Ranch.

                Brandy Fowler

                Humane Education Instructor

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                  An animal lover since birth and a passion for teaching lead Brandy to the Ranch. Added bonus was becoming a foster family for the Ranch. When not at the Ranch you will find her spending time with her husband, son, two dogs, parrot, bunny, lizard and frog.

                  Todd Fowler

                  Humane Education Manager

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                    Todd comes to the Rescue Ranch with a diverse background in Elementary/Middle School Education, Business, and outdoor learning.    Todd has developed a great appreciation for conservation, wildlife, and Natural Resource Management. Additionally, he stays active in his community, volunteering with several local non-profit organizations, contributing whenever he is able.  When not at the Rescue Ranch or with his Family (including their dog and 3 cats), Todd enjoys riding his bike, running trails, and has recently begun learning to play the guitar.

                    Joan Rizzo

                    Development Manager

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                      Joan has spent more than four decades in the nonprofit world, raising funds and community awareness for worthy causes. She loves animals of all kinds and has supported animal rescue groups throughout her life. Her favorite activities are taking long walks with her rescue dog Joey, visiting historic sites, and spending quality time with her family and friends.

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