Pandemics & Problem Solving: The Issue of Animal Rescue’s Current Supply & Demand

During this pandemic, Ruff Start has seen a serious uptick in every facet of rescue – except one.

It’s incredible to me how much the landscape of life has changed in the past few months. Universally, the way we go about our daily lives has had to constantly ebb and flow with each day, each report, each restriction. It’s been a reality check, and it’s sure made life in rescue exceptionally interesting… which is saying a lot, considering the rescue life is pretty compelling and complicated within itself!

Since March – essentially, when this epidemic began gripping the nation – and spanning to today, we’ve experienced both positive effects and negative outcomes as a result of these life changes. In the spirit of Ruff Start’s stance on maintaining accountability and honesty with our audience, I’ll share about both sides of the coin today. It’s a tough topic to cover, but I think it’s important to touch on just what’s changed for both our organization as well as the animals in our care since this started.


I am incredibly grateful to announce that, despite never going through a full-fledged pandemic shutdown before (has anyone?), Ruff Start has seen a serious uptick in every facet of rescue – except one, which I’ll touch on in a moment. From intaking more animals than ever to training in new volunteers, our numbers are soaring and we are breaking our own records with each month that passes! This means more animals have been finding new homes, more fosters are discovering the joy of giving an animal a chance to start fresh, and more families are adopting new best friends. In fact, we’re saving 30% more animals than we expected (and, budgeted for) this year. That’s a mindblowing statistic! Here’s just a few of the other awesome things that have happened within our organization over the past few months:

  • In June 2020, we received 1,065 adoption applications compared to 649 in June 2019.
  • We have been able to adopt out some of the most difficult to place animals that have been in our care the longest, including Lucy the hound and Peyton the cat.
  • We saved 345 animals in May 2020 compared to 176 in May 2019 – the most we’ve ever saved in one singular month.
  • We’ve had an exponential increase in the number of foster applications we’ve been receiving compared to last year, including a record breaking seven day stretch in March where we received 150 foster applications when Minnesota’s “Stay at Home” measure was launched.
Canyon trapped in rubber drainage pipe
One of our recent hard medical cases, Canyon, who was found with multiple quill wounds and a rubber drainage pipe around his neck.
Canyon happy
Canyon, today, is on his way to thriving after being rescued.

The changes brought about by this pandemic, though, have also caused a significant strain on and in our organization from the standpoint of many involved, including our staff, volunteers, and the animals we save. While I had said above that we were saving 30% more animals than we anticipated when we budgeted for this year, that also comes with the inverse of increasing our animal care and veterinary expenses by around 30% as well. To make matters even more tough, our primary method of raising funds – large scale events – have been halted until further notice, creating intense pressure for our veterinary team and potentially limiting the number of animals we can help.

To put it in perspective, we were anticipating raising over $180,000 by holding our first-ever gala and our annual wellness clinic this spring. Due to COVID-19, we needed to cancel the gala and indefinitely postpone the wellness clinic, effectively throwing away months of hard work, planning, and – of course – purported donations. And that’s just what we anticipated raising within 6 months’ time! It’s difficult to imagine what will happen if this pandemic continues on for an extended period of time, like another 6 months or more. We fear our abilities to help will definitely be limited, while demand – for both adoptable pets and for lifesaving of at-risk animals – continues to grow.

Of course, it’s not all about the money, either – although our fundraising efforts are a fundamental part of allowing us to do “whatever it takes” for the animals in our care. We’ve had to entirely change how our organization runs in many aspects, as referenced by our previous blog posts.

While people are going at their own pace and states are slowly lifting restrictions to allow businesses and people to rediscover close to everyday life again, we still have to exercise supreme caution when it comes to handling both pets and people during the COVID-19 pandemic. And, in complete honesty, all these new ways of doing things? They’re a double-edged sword. On one hand, they’re badly hurting the business side of rescue that keeps us entirely afloat: raising crucial funds that allow us to save more and more lives each and every day. But on the other hand, they’re forcing us to find more efficient and creative ways of doing rescue – changing us for the better, and pushing the future of animal welfare forward by leaps and bounds. The pandemic has also urged us to do better work faster and more effectively, growing our insatiable desire to make a difference for the animals that need us.

SIMPLY PUT? We’re pulling through this pandemic because of individual contributions from our donors.

No matter how things turn out as we move forward, I’ll admit that I am slightly apprehensive but not necessarily worried. While, granted, we’ve never experienced a pandemic before, the rescue has seen tough economic times. However, we’re still here – and that’s because in times of trouble, the thing that has always propelled us onward has been our community. Yep – you!

To those of you who have supported the Ruff Start mission the past few months, thank you. Simply put? We’re pulling through this pandemic because of individual contributions from donors just like you. Your dollars, truly, have never helped more than they do right now. We’ve learned that we can thrive in unprecedented times like this only if our community continues to support us. So, will you?

Until large scale events return as normal, we still need you more than ever. Don’t forget about us. Don’t forget that we still have work to do, and we truly can’t do it without you.

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