BERLIN CENTER — Youngstown native Amy Rigby, owner of the nonprofit animal shelter Rebel Rescue Ranch, remembers always being someone her family and friends contacted whenever they had a question about the unwanted animals or exotic animals.
This inspired her to start an animal rescue organization.
“I had years of experience caring for exotic animals, so friends and family would look to me as a resource person when it came to their pets. Eventually, I started taking in their pets when they couldn’t care for them anymore. It was then that I came to the realization that there was a need for a rescue that took in pets other than cats or dogs,” Rigby said.
In 2018, Rigby officially became a non-profit organization under the name Rebel Rescue Ranch in Berlin Center. Before expanding to the ranch, Rigby started out in Lowellville as Rebel Rescue Ohio. Rebel Rescue Ranch is home to goats, pigs, rabbits, ferrets, birds and lizards.
“I quickly realized that the need to foster exotic and unwanted pets was more in demand and crucial than I expected. I needed some extra space and that’s how I moved from Rebel Rescue Ohio to Rebel Rescue Ranch. I wanted to provide a place where people can bring unwanted animals that aren’t cats or dogs. I do not foster dogs or cats, but I will work with many dog or cat shelters in the area as well as some organizations such as Animal Charity of Ohio. They’ve contacted me about taking in animals they don’t normally house, like rabbits, lizards or ferrets,” Rigby said.
Rigby said Rebel Rescue Ranch provides animal bedding, shelter and care. The nonprofit organization also offers education for anyone interested in handing over a pet or adopting a pet from Rigby.
“It’s gratifying to see these animals come to me, and I’m caring for them and finding them homes,” Rigby said.
Along with a background in exotic animal rescue, Austintown Fitch graduate Rigby is a visual artist and has a degree in Art Education and a Bachelor of Fine Arts, both from Youngstown State University.
“When I started going to college, I had no idea what I wanted to study. I always had an interest in art and creating. I ended up taking so many classes and I was so passionate about art that I ended up getting two degrees. Chris McCullough was my favorite teacher. She’s the inspiration for my current mixed media artwork and illustrations,” said Rigby.
After graduating from YSU in 2007, she served as a substitute teacher in Mahoning County and then taught art classes at the Purple Cat for five years.
Rigby has exhibited his art in several buildings in downtown Youngstown, such as the former Cedars Restaurant. Rigby’s art training is another way she raises money to continue her animal rescue.
“I created a series called ‘Noble Creatures’ which was on display at Noble Creature Cask House in Youngstown. This whole series was sold to patrons visiting the bar. I wish I had more time to create art, but animal rescue keeps me busy, which is just as rewarding as creating art. I’m always looking for reliable volunteers and help with fundraising ideas,” said Rigby.
Rigby’s current projects center on coordinating fundraisers to keep Rebel Rescue Ranch afloat. She said fundraising before the COVID-19 pandemic was difficult, but it’s even harder after the 2022 pandemic.
“It’s harder now after COVID, as people may not have the same work situations or the extra money to give, but I still find exciting ways to raise money for Rebel Rescue Ranch. One of those fundraisers was an art exhibit I hosted at Art House On Elm in Youngstown for the whole month of September. I curated this art exhibit with other local artists, who donated their pieces and 100% of the proceeds went to Rebel Rescue Ranch. I also hosted a wine tasting in the barn at Rebel Rescue Ranch. The barn floor is a small event rental space if you want to host a party,” Rigby said.
On October 29, Penguin City Beer, Rebel Rescue Ranch and Absolut Vodka will host a fundraising event showing the classic 1975 film, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” with audience participation. The event is perfectly timed with Halloween and will take place at the Penguin City Brewing Company in downtown Youngstown.
“Penguin City Beer reached out to me because they knew I was in love with ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ and all things Halloween. They knew I wanted to start a fundraiser. We’re also running a contest pumpkin carving event Thursday at Penguin City Beer with prizes. These pumpkins will be on display for ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ event on October 29 to help set the mood,” Rigby said.
The pumpkin carving event will take place from 6-9 p.m. at Penguin City Beer, 460 E. Federal St., Youngstown. Only 100 pumpkins will be available, so it’s on a first-come, first-served basis. One pumpkin will be given per person and attendees must bring their own carving supplies. Pumpkins will be judged and prizes will be awarded. They will be displayed at Penguin City Beer throughout Halloween weekend, then donated to Rebel Rescue Ranch to feed the animals.
The Oct. 29 event will have a $5 cover charge and doors open at 7 p.m. with DJ Spruce kicking off the party. The movie starts at 9 p.m. and party bags will be $5, with 100% of proceeds going to Rebel Rescue Ranch. There will be Absolut Vodka drink specials throughout the night, giveaways and a costume contest.