A massive 100-acre cage-free, no-kill dog rescue facility opened on Friday in Macon County.

Big Dog Ranch Rescue was founded in 2008 by Lauree Simmons of Palm Beach, Fla.

The Ranch's purpose is to save dogs in distress from shelters that euthanize throughout the country. It rescues abused dogs and dogs suffering from inhumane treatment and natural disasters. The Ranch has saved more than 53,000 dogs to date.

Located at the former home of a greyhound training facility at Victoryland Casino in Shorter, the Ranch is slated to double its national impact by saving 5,000 dogs each year. It will now serve Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas as a rescue, rehabilitation and adoption center for neglected and abused dogs.

"The opening of a second Big Dog Ranch Rescue location is something I've prayed for over the years," Simmons said. "This expansion means we can save an additional 5,000 precious lives allowing us to double our impact. It's a great day for us, and, more importantly, it's a great day for the dogs."

"A big thank-you to the community for an outpouring of support and interest," said ranch Executive Director Robin Friedman. "Without volunteers and donors, we would be unable to continue our mission to save lives and to find every dog a loving home."

One of the more notable supporters of the Ranch was the late Ivana Trump, former wife of Donald Trump.

When Ivana passed away in July, according to her wishes, the Trump family asked for donations to the Ranch in lieu of flowers.

The Ranch's website credits the Trump family with being long-time supporters of the Ranch. They credited Eric and Lara Trump for frequently participating in fundraisers to save dogs, stating Lara had been instrumental in garnering legislation that prevents animal cruelty, including the ban on greyhound racing in Florida.

"Ivana was a survivor," Simmons said. "She fled communism, embraced America, and raised three exceptional children who also devote their time and resources to many charities, including Big Dog Ranch Rescue. I am honored that the family has asked the multitudes who love Ivana to support our mission of saving dogs at risk in her name. It seems appropriate that someone who was a true survivor and huge dog lover will now help our rescues survive their own difficult circumstances and to find their own loving families. Ivana will help us from heaven above to save more innocent dogs' lives." 

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email [email protected].

Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.