3 reasons to become an animal foster

3 reasons to become an animal foster

by: Mary Christine Kane

Have you considered becoming a cat, dog or small animal foster? It’s never been a better time. Shelters are bursting with loving animals who need a safe place to land and a large number of people are having to surrender their pets due to hardship.

We invite you to join the 1,600 foster parents at Ruff Start who are making a difference in the lives of animals in need. In honor of National Foster a Pet Month, here’s some information to help you decide:

  1. It’s free. Food, vet and supply costs are completely covered by Ruff Start. We just ask that you help with transport of your foster to and from needed appointments.
  2. It’s rewarding. When you bring an animal into your home who has come from a difficult place such as a loud and cramped shelter or a home where they were stressed, it is life-changing for that animal and often saves their life. It’s also a joy to witness the transformation from tense and scared to relaxed and happy when you offer a warm, safe home and regular meals.
  3. It makes a difference. Foster-based rescues like Ruff Start are a critical part of managing animal populations and reducing animal suffering. In 2023, 6.5 million animals were brought into shelters and 850,000 did not leave, many of them euthanized. Others die before making it to a shelter. Our work relieves stress on shelters and our spay and neuter standards reduce the overall animal population. In addition to shelter support we are a safe haven for owner surrenders, strays and reservation partners.

How it works:

You are in control. With the help of seasoned Ruff Start guides, you choose the foster animal that fits your lifestyle and home. Then when it’s time, you help choose their forever home. If that ends up being your home, we will support you.

Fostering time varies. An animal may be with you for a couple of weeks or many months. It all depends on when the foster is ready, which we judge by their behavioral and physical health. If you would like to foster for a defined amount of time, consider temporary fostering. It’s an important role to cover vacations and other needed time away for foster guardians.

You receive support. As part of your onboarding as a cat, dog or small animal foster, we provide training. Once you are on our fostering team, you can join our online community to connect with other volunteers. We also have a team of medical and behavioral support staff to help you with your foster animal(s) and a database of helpful resources right at your fingertips.

Visit us online for more information.

We hope you will join our fostering team. Learn more about fostering on our website and sign up to foster today.

Preventing Pet Loss

Preventing Pet Loss: Heartbreak and Hope for a Reunion

by: World Animal Foundation

Pet owners may sadly experience the grim tragedy of pet loss. However, losing a pet can have a happy ending. By being prepared for the worst-case scenario and using microchipping, ID tags, and training, pet parents can be happily reunited with their lost pet. In this article, we’ll focus on preventable acts of loss.

Causes and statistics about pet loss

In a sample survey provided by the NIH of 303 participants, 123 pets, or 40.6%, died from diseases. It’s the most prevalent cause of death in pets. Diseases affect many pets, and not all are curable. The second segment is natural death and includes 106 or 35% of pets. Accidental death claimed 54 pets or 17.8%. The remaining 20 pets were lost to unforeseen circumstances. This 6.6% may be avoidable.

Ways to Prevent Pet Loss

Here are the most efficient tips for pet loss prevention:

  • Ensure safety and security of your yard

Whether it’s a new puppy or a rescue dog, prepare beforehand. Do a perimeter walk and make sure it’s escape-proof. Determined or curious, a dog can squeeze through a small space, leap over, or dig underneath. Invisible perimeter fences and electronic collars work well, but vigilance is the best method of keeping a pet secure. Cats are trickier to keep in a yard; they’re athletic climbers and can squeeze through tiny spaces. Also, remove chemicals like garden fertilizers and automotive products like anti-freeze, which is lethal for pets.

  • Microchipping and tagging pets

Microchips are an invaluable device that can save immense heartache. These miniature ID tags slip painlessly beneath a pet’s skin. If pets get rescued by a local animal shelter or control officer, it can happily reunite owners. The caveat is to keep contact info on a microchip updated and registered.

  • Use of GPS collars and leash

GPS dog trackers provide real-time location tracking, ensuring the safety of your furry friend. World Animal Foundation recommends using dog GPS trackers. These tracking collars have numerous advantages and are crucial for reuniting and protecting lost pets. Leash training will keep your dog safe until you are 100% certain your dog is reliable on recalls. For larger dogs, use a no-pull harness until you master heeling.

  • Training your pet to respond to calls

Unfortunate incidents can happen to furry friends. Teaching a dog to obey boundaries and commands takes effort. Perimeter fence training keeps your pet safe. Attending puppy or adult sessions is a unique bonding experience that protects your pet from accidents. Responding to calls and basic training and command cues are vital. Luckily there are many excellent programs like positive reinforcement, clicker, electronic, alpha, or relationship-based training.

  • Supervise your pets when they’re outdoors

Having a dog means enjoying the outdoors. When you leave your dog in a securely fenced area, there is a good chance they’ll be safe. However, if you leave them unsupervised, your dog may start to investigate getting out. When you’re in an open area, keep your dog on a lead, and make sure they’re wearing a collar with ID. If the dog escapes, don’t panic or chase. This is when you’ll apply your recall training or other commands like stop, down, etc., that they have mastered. Also, remain in the area as your dog might return to the area looking for you.

  • Ensure your pet’s safety during events

Whether it’s a family outing, a day at the beach, or hiking, your training skills and leash and collar come in handy. Noisy, crowded areas can overwhelm a dog even if they’re well socialized. If the event includes a long road trip, consider installing a restraining device to keep the dog safe as you concentrate on driving. For dogs that like to drive with the window down, buckling them in prevents them from jumping out windows.

  • Training Your Pet to Stay Close

There is no substitute for training. Basic commands like stay and come are essential, but your dog needs to learn to be reliable. Training means building a bond with your pet. It’s unrealistic to suggest that you’ll monitor your dog 24/7. However, teaching your dog boundary rules is achievable and keeps your dog safe when life’s impromptu circumstances intervene. Take extra precautions when you take your dog into unfamiliar parks or areas.

  • Spaying/neutering your pet

The benefits of spaying and neutering are numerous. It can protect dogs from health conditions, including sexually transmitted diseases like VD and testicular cancer. Further, the urge to mate and run away is removed, and they’re less likely to mark their territory with urine. Another significant benefit is the unwanted and overpopulation of animals.

  • Creating a Safe Environment for Your Pets

A safe home environment goes a long way to keeping your pets safe. Supply a fenced or invisible perimeter to keep your pets out of harm’s way. Keep gates and doorways fastened, and if you must leave a pet unattended, double-check that they can’t escape. Create a plan for emergency events, like the Humane Society Preparedness Tips. These rules don’t always work for cats. Keeping doors or windows closed or protected by screens will most often keep cats safe.

  • Give proper time and attention to your pet

Cats and dogs need affection and social interactions and entertaining them doesn’t have to be fancy. Pets benefit from physical and mental activity. Many gadgets can help, but again, you don’t have to overcomplicate them. Devote at least 1 to 2 hours of your attention to your pet daily.

  • Take extra measures during car rides

Going on a holiday or taking your dog to work are rewarding experiences. A safety harness while traveling is a great way to keep them safe. At least 10,000 dogs die in car accidents yearly.


  • Frequent pit stops to urinate and drink fresh water
  • To stretch their legs (not all dogs enjoy car rides)
  • Training to get them used to traveling in a car
  • Roll the window down a few inches to equalize air pressure
  • Control what they see (put them in the middle)
  • Withhold food if they experience severe motion sickness (not water)
  • Make them comfortable with a special toy or blanky
  • Train your pet to stay indoors in your absence

This means making your dog comfortable in your home while you’re gone. Many dog owners find that confining their dogs to one room provides pet safety and can prevent accidents.


  • A comfortable bed or crate they’re familiar with
  • Set a comfortable room temperature
  • Have access to water
  • Don’t have access to dangerous chemicals or household gadgets
  • Leave a radio or television on
  • Leave toys or use a camera/ communication device so they can hear you
  • Make sure they have time to relieve themselves before you leave
  • Always keep your pet’s documentation close

Microchipping and collar ID tags are vital. Keep your ID and microchip information updated, especially when you move. Register your dog with pet finder organizations.

In the event there is a mishap:

  • Keep vaccination and health records on file
  • Provide purebred registration certificates on hand
  • Microchip information
  • Current photo
  • Use a file folder or store the information on your telephone.
  • The Role of the Community in Preventing Pet Loss

The first rule of pet ownership within a community is to respect that your neighbor may not be a fan of your cat, dog, or other pets. However, introduce your pet and their habits to the community.


  • Respectful rapport by not allowing your dog or cat to trespass
  • An emergency plan and ask your community for help
  • Distribute posters on a community board or social media blog


As pet parents, we can’t prevent the inevitable loss of a beloved pet, but we can actively engage the tools of loss prevention by keeping our pets safe and protecting a pet’s life with many devices like training and tech gadgets.

Service, emotional support and therapy animals – what’s the difference?

By: Mary Christine Kane

In recent years there has been more widespread acceptance of the role the human-animal bond can play in our health and healing. Pets can help with our physical health, such as lowering blood pressure and reducing stress, as well as with emotional health such as improving depression, decreasing loneliness and much more.

Because of these and other findings, there are recognized categories for therapeutic animals and more legal protections for people with disabilities and their animal friends: service, emotional support, and therapy animals. But what’s the difference?

Service animals. These are working dogs that have been trained to perform a service or task directly related to a person’s disability. They live with the person they help. Examples include guide dogs for people with visual impairments and hearing dogs for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Service animals can also be trained to alert handlers about oncoming seizures, diabetic spikes, detecting dangerous allergens and other tasks.

Although often licensed, they are not always. In the United States, in rare cases, miniature horses can also be service animals.

It was just recently, under the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) that service animals have been allowed into many public spaces. Before then, only dogs assisting people with visual disabilities had legal protections.

Emotional support animals or ESAs. ESAs, also called assistance animals, are the most common type of support friend. They live as pets with their guardians and unlike service animals, they are often not trained.

ESAs provide companionship and emotional support for people with anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health and emotional disorders. A wide range of animals are considered ESAs, including dogs, cats, birds, small mammals and horses.

Some ESA animals are allowed to live with owners in housing which has “no pets” policies and landlords must waive pet fees. ESAs may also be allowed into the workplace. Full requirements can be found on the Minnesota Department of Human Rights webpage.

Therapy animals. This broad category of animal friends may also be specially trained for therapeutic tasks, but not always. They may just be friendly and mild-mannered.

These animals live and work with handlers and are an integral part of many therapeutic settings such as hospitals, nursing homes and disaster relief environments, providing comfort and easing stress.

They may also participate in reading programs where children read to them to improve literacy skills. Therapy animals can be any species and many are registered as service animals.

Interested in adopting an ESA? If you are interested in finding an emotional support pet, Ruff Start has many animals in need. View adoptable pets.

Introducing Pablo Day!

Each time Minnesota Twins’ ace, Pablo López, takes the mound in 2024, it’s PABLO DAY! This special ticket package includes a ticket to the game and a Pablo-themed jersey, paying homage to his Venezuelan roots. Plus, a portion of the proceeds from this ticket package benefit Ruff Start Rescue, Children’s Minnesota, and Project Success non-profits.

Sign up to receive updates on the Pablo Day ticket package available at every one of Pablo’s starts at Target Field from May to September. Notifications will be shared once pitching probables for each Pablo start are available.

The Story of Athena

Guess who’s on their way to Ruff Start Rescue?

Remember Athena and her adorable brood of 12 newborn puppies? Last Monday, we shared their story, seeking a foster home after the heartbreaking loss of their owner. A compassionate soul stepped up, and today marks the beginning of their journey with Ruff Start!

At 2.5 weeks old, these precious pups have been under the care of animal control, but they’re eager to experience the warmth and love of a foster home. Upon arrival, they’ll receive comprehensive veterinary attention, ensuring they’re healthy and happy. And they’ll eventually undergo spaying and neutering before finding their new families. Caring for this sizable family comes at a significant cost—estimated at $4,550!

Your support means the world to these tiny Minnesotans. Join our #LocalLove campaign and make a difference today by contributing to their care. Thanks to a generous donor, every contribution you make will be matched, doubling the impact of your kindness!

May 2024 Local Love Campaign

May marks #NationalPetMonth, a time to honor our cherished companions while also reflecting on the needs of those still seeking homes.

Across Minnesota, animal shelters are facing unprecedented challenges. A surge in owner surrenders and stray animals has strained resources, leaving many facilities at full capacity and in need of support from rescues and the community.

There has been a notable rise in owner-surrendered pets due to various life changes, such as family dynamics, relocations, and lifestyle adjustments. In 2023, Ruff Start alone experienced a 46% increase in owner surrenders compared to the previous year, highlighting the urgent need for assistance.

In May, we also enter the early stages of baby season, a time when shelters become inundated with new puppies and kittens in need of homes. The shelter environment makes these little ones extremely vulnerable to fast-spreading viruses and diseases like kennel cough, parvo, distemper, and upper respiratory infections. They need out as soon as possible to ensure their health and safety.

Ruff Start Rescue is dedicated to aiding these animals and providing the necessary resources for their care. However, this effort requires collective action. Our goal for May is to find new foster homes for 30 local animals, but we cannot achieve this alone.

Your support is crucial. Whether you can foster a pet, share a post, or contribute to their care through donations, every effort counts. Join us in making a difference for these local pets who need us most.

The 6-month-old puppy pictured is currently waiting for rescue at a local impound. He’s a typical playful pup who would make an excellent first foster companion. Sign up to foster him: https://ruffstartrescue.org/get-involved/foster/

Support Minnesota’s animals by donating to our #LocalLove campaign. A generous donor is matching all contributions.

The Story of Bobbi

Bobbi spent the weekend at the emergency vet, incurring $6,093.87 in medical expenses to safely bring her kittens into the world. Could you please assist us in alleviating some of the financial burden by contributing towards her bills?
“In early March, Bobbi appeared in our yard and was very friendly but skittish. She kept coming back for a week, and I had posted pictures of her on Facebook and NextDoor but got no information. Our kids were able to get her into a crate and brought her to our vet, where we discovered she had no microchip.

So we brought her into our house and got connected with Ruff Start Rescue about fostering and adopting her. It also soon became obvious she was pregnant. She continued to be a very friendly and gentle cat.

Fast forward to Saturday, April 27, at 3 pm, her water broke. Several hours passed with no kittens. We talked with RSR and brought her to the emergency vet. They did some scans and saw 3 kittens, and it was thought she should be able to give birth to them. They gave her oxytocin, and we brought her home at 3 am Sunday with the hope she would give birth. 6 hours pass, and still no kittens.

Something wasn’t right, so again, with RSR’s direction, we brought her back to the emergency vet, and a second doctor said her kittens were too big for her to give birth to them and needed a C-section. Bobbi is a young cat and got pregnant before she was full-grown, so she wasn’t able to deliver the kittens on her own.

Surgery went well, with one of the kittens having more trouble than the other 2, but soon was stable. We brought everyone home late Sunday night.

Since being home, they’ve settled in, been eating and growing. Bobbi seems to be a natural mother taking care of her kittens and is healing quickly.

It’s been quite a blessing having Bobbi arrive into our lives, and huge thanks to RSR for their help in getting her kittens safely into the world.” – Bobbi’s foster family

Thanks to this vital medical care, Bobbi and her kittens are healthy and thriving. Bobbi will soon find her permanent home with her foster family, while her adorable kittens – Bella, Biscuit, and Raven – will be seeking their own loving families once they’re ready for adoption.

The Story of Kyle

Kyle’s journey has been one of ups and downs. He started life surrounded by a big, loving family with other pets and children. However, a recent escapade led him into the hands of compassionate individuals who had been caring for him until a foster family took him in. Sadly, his previous family couldn’t keep him due to his energy and health issues, which they couldn’t afford to manage.
But Kyle’s spirit shines bright despite the challenges he’s faced. At just over two years old, he’s a bundle of energy, ready to run and play at any moment. He’s affectionate and adores being close to his humans, soaking up every bit of love and attention he can get.
Today, Kyle faces a crucial moment in his journey toward finding a new home. He’s scheduled for surgery at Granite City. The procedure involves the removal of his damaged eye, along with a neuter, hernia repair, vaccinations, microchipping, and heartworm testing. The estimated cost for his comprehensive care is approximately $600.
Kyle’s eye condition has progressed to a point where there’s little hope for recovery, and the risk of rupture is imminent. Removing the eye is his best chance to live a comfortable, happy life.
Every contribution towards Kyle’s medical care, no matter the size, will make a significant difference in his path to recovery and finding a loving home.

The Story of SweetPea

SweetPea’s journey has been marked by hardship, lacking the kindness and care every living being deserves.
Discovered wandering alone amidst a spring snowstorm, the 5-year-old feline was a picture of suffering, bearing a broken front left leg, fractured teeth, and a painful abscess in her mouth. Stripped of her whiskers and dignity, likely in a harrowing ordeal of amateur grooming, she bore numerous cuts and abrasions, all while plagued by fleas.
Thankfully, fate intervened when she was taken to a local impound, and a compassionate Ruff Start volunteer whisked her into the warmth of rescue. Upon joining us, SweetPea received the vital care she desperately needed, including antibiotics for her abscess, routine tests, microchipping, deworming, and flea and tick prevention.
Due to the excruciating pain from her teeth, her first stop was a dental at Crossroads, where three were extracted. Today, she is with Ruff Start’s veterinary team for the amputation of her front left leg.
Despite the trauma inflicted upon her by her previous caretakers, SweetPea is the most loving and affectionate cat you could ever meet. Initially, a gentle touch would cause her to flinch, but now she has settled well in her foster home. She’s healing nicely, both physically and emotionally. SweetPea is not only affectionate, she’s an absolute goofball! When she’s not cuddling with or headbutting her human companions, she is often playing in her tunnel toy, bird-watching, or curled up for a nap on her heating pad. She has embraced the company of children and fellow felines.
SweetPea’s resilience and affectionate nature make her truly extraordinary. With your generosity in covering her medical expenses, she can step into the life she deserves, ready to shower her new family with love.

The Story of Barbara

Barbara needs our help.
On Wednesday, 6-month-old American Bully Barbara joined Ruff Start. Originally acquired from a questionable breeder, her previous owner was misled about her condition, believing her unsteady gait was merely due to sibling squabbles. However, further evaluation by a neurologist at the University of Minnesota revealed a congenital abnormality affecting her spine, likely a vertebral body malformation – an abnormal formation of one or more of the bones of the spine.
Although they haven’t had her long, Barbara’s foster family describes her as an absolute delight, melting hearts with her sweet nature and endless curiosity. Her eagerness to explore is evident. Adjusting to her new surroundings, she’s quickly mastered potty training and is a perfect travel companion, displaying a calm demeanor during car rides. Her foster mom (a vet tech) was able to fit her into a little wheelchair so she could start working on gaining some strength.
As Barbara settles into her foster home, it has become apparent that her needs are more extensive than initially thought. To give her the best chance at a fulfilling life, we’re eager to start physical therapy sessions promptly. With six sessions estimated at $765, every contribution will make a difference in Barbara’s journey towards strength and mobility.
Despite her challenges, Barbara’s prognosis offers hope. While her condition may affect her coordination and strength, it’s unlikely to worsen over time. In fact, with proper care and support, she may even continue to improve as she grows. And most importantly, she’s not in discomfort.
Barbara will also require essential veterinary care, including spaying, vaccinations, microchipping, and parasite prevention. Your support will ensure she receives the comprehensive care every pup deserves.
Ruff Start Rescue