The Story of Mags

5-year-old Maggie was found abandoned in a mobile home on the Minnesota/Wisconsin border with 30 cats, surrounded by feces, garbage, and a total mess. This is no way for anyone to live, let alone someone as sweet as Mags and her companions.
These poor creatures had lived in the home with their owner for about a year before they were left to fend for themselves for weeks before being found. They were left with a couple of bags of food and some buckets of water. While the circumstances surrounding their abandonment remain unknown, we can’t help but wish their owner knew that help was available.
When Mags and the cats were found, they were brought to a local rural shelter. All of the cats were adopted, and only Mags remained. Today, she joins the Ruff Start Rescue family.
Mags has tested positive for Lyme and heartworm. She has already been treated for Lyme and may experience temporary muscle soreness while she recovers. She has started receiving her heartworm treatment, which will continue with her foster family.
After Mags visits with our veterinary team, she will be on the hunt for an adoptive or foster-to-adopt home. Due to her co-existence with felines, Maggie is great with cats. (She may even think she is one!) She’s sweet, calm, and loves people of all ages. She would love a home with some kitty friends or a calm older or male dog. At 40 pounds, this mid-sized pup already has all her basic training and is ready to meet her family.
Join us in giving Maggie a second chance at a happy, healthy life. Donate today and be a part of her incredible transformation. Together, we can make a lasting impact.

Need for Cat and Kitten Food is Urgent

‼️ Please help! ‼️
We are out of puppy and kitten food! During puppy and kitten season, we always go through a lot, but we have saved SO many animals just this past month.
Here are just a few facts:
We currently have 614 animals IN RESCUE!
227 of those are kittens, and 122 are puppies!
In June alone, we saved 380 animals! This is a record-breaking month in all of the past 13 years since inception!
? Each kitten gets around 2 small size cans of kitten food PER DAY.
Add that up once… 227×2 = 454 cans PER DAY! Or around 23 cases! We also need dry kitten food.

? The puppy servings vary, but on average, 3-4 cups PER DAY. With a 14lb bag of food, that is 9 bags of food PER DAY! We use primarily dry food, but also some canned.

The reality is that we just can’t keep up, and our shelves are almost bare. We provide our fosters with all supplies necessary while they care for the dogs, cats, and critters under the rescue’s care, but we need your help to keep up with feeding everyone. We never want the cost of food to be a deterrent to life-saving and refuse to let it be. We know there are animal lovers out there, just like us, who will help.

If you’re in a place to donate, it would immediately impact the puppies and kittens in our care and be so appreciated. (We luckily have a good supply of adult food).

Ruff Start’s Amazon and Chewy wishlists have been updated, and anything purchased from this list will be shipped directly to our rescue office.
Amazon Wishlist >>
Chewy Wishlist >>

You can also donate cash to this fundraiser, send a check directly to our PO Box 129, Princeton, MN 55371 or donate on our website or even drop off supplies or a monetary donation right at our office in Princeton – 12526 319th Ave, Princeton, MN 55371.

The Story of Bella

This poor senior tripod has been at a local shelter for almost a month.
10-year-old Bella arrived as a stray dragging one of her hind legs. The leg had an old injury that did not receive medical care and was too far gone; it was amputated as soon as possible.
Remarkably, Bella doesn’t let her missing limb slow her down one bit. This resilient girl embraces life with such enthusiasm. Her favorite pastime? Playing with toys! Whether it’s chasing after balls or engaging in a spirited game of tug-of-war, Bella’s spirit shines through. She’s an intelligent pup who already knows commands like sit, down, and shake. Plus, she seems to be impeccably housetrained and keeps her kennel spotless. Bella has also shown great compatibility with other dogs, dog-savvy felines, and children.
We’re introducing you to Bella because we believe she deserves to spend her golden years in a loving home. But before we can make that a reality, we need your help to find her a foster family. By signing up to foster Bella, you’ll provide her with the care, support, and warmth she needs during this transitional phase.
Bella is already spayed, vaccinated, and eagerly awaiting her new temporary or long-term home. At 40 pounds, she could benefit from shedding a few pounds to ensure her remaining legs remain strong and healthy. When joining Ruff Start Rescue, Bella will receive a thorough examination from our dedicated vetting team, ensuring she receives any additional medical attention she may require.
We kindly ask for your support in making Bella’s journey a success. Your donation today will not only sponsor Bella’s time in our care but also contribute to the well-being of countless other local dogs who will soon be joining our rescue.
Together, let’s provide Bella with the love, comfort, and security she deserves in her twilight years.
A newborn kitten laying down on the grass. White fur with orange ears, gray eyes and bright pink nose

Need for Cat and Kitten Food is Urgent

By: Brent Honcharenko

Ruff Start Rescue is in desperate need of kitten food and the organization is asking the public for help. There are currently 200+ kittens in the Ruff Start Rescue system that need daily feeding and the food supply is critically low.

Azure Davis, Founder & Executive Director at Ruff Start Rescue, said it takes roughly 16 cases of food per day to feed all of the cats and kittens that are being cared for throughout the organization. The cats are fostered by Ruff Start Rescue volunteers until they’re adopted.

“We go through about 400 cans per day right now and with stores not having a lot leftover to donate, we’re in a tough spot,” Azure Davis said.

Ruff Start Rescue depends on donations of food and supplies for the pets that are in foster care waiting to be adopted. When those donations run short, the funds to provide those necessities come out of the organization’s budget. But this shortage goes above and beyond expectations.

“This is an additional expense we didn’t expect,” Davis added.

This local shortage that Ruff Start Rescue and other shelters and rescue organizations are experiencing can be attributed to a larger pet food supply shortage, which can be traced to an aluminum material shortage. The nation-wide aluminum shortage is a result of the COVID-19 pandemic aftermath and a decrease of aluminum imports from China and Russia.

According to an article posted by Industrial Metal Service, like so many other things since the pandemic, the issue now is simply supply vs. demand. Manufacturers in America are still dealing with post-pandemic factory production labor shortages and material supply chain issues. Additionally, materials from foreign countries are harder to obtain with trade frictions occurring between power countries and higher imposed tariffs on imports.

According to Dana Brooks, president and CEO of the Pet Food Institute, who was quoted in The Times-Tribune (Scranton, PA) in January of this year, there has been a shortage of cat food, predominately wet (canned) food, since the pandemic in 2020.

Brooks said pet food makers are working their way out of a major backlog and attributes the shortage mostly to an inadequate supply of packaging materials, particularly aluminum.

While pet supply stores and grocery stores are experiencing a shortage in all canned pet foods, cat and kitten food seems to be taking the biggest hit. According to The Times-Tribune article, aluminum suppliers are giving higher priority to human food manufacturers than to pet food manufacturers.

Compounding the supply challenge, the meat and fish used in pet food has also been harder to obtain due to labor shortages, cost increases and restricted imports, particularly for fish and salmon.

The bottom line is, pet food is just not as plentiful as it was three years ago and pet owners and organizations like Ruff Start Rescue are feeling it. There are inconsistent peaks and valleys in the current supply chain and it’s going to take pet food companies some time to catch back up and then produce consistently.

In the meantime, any kitten food the public can find and willingly donate is appreciated more than you know. Please consider donating directly to RSR through their Amazon or Chewy wishlists, monetary donations can be made on their website, or contact for more information about donating.

Thank you for your consideration and contribution.

The Story of The Dumped Bunnies

Dumped in a junkyard without a second thought.
Eight rabbits were callously abandoned on a desolate property near Lakeville, Minnesota. For two long months, they found themselves trying to survive amidst the debris. Thankfully, the plight of these bunnies reached the compassionate ears of Rabbit Rescue MN, a local organization dedicated to the welfare of rabbits.
However, the rescue group faced a challenge – they did not have enough foster homes available to take in the entire rabbit family. Determined not to leave any bunny behind, they sought the help of Ruff Start.
When the rescuers arrived at the junkyard, their hearts sank. Only four rabbits remained alive, having braved the harsh conditions of their surroundings.
Ruff Start was able to welcome two of the surviving bunnies, 1-year-old Zorro and Disa, sibling Dwarf Hotots. Their journey had been fraught with challenges, and upon arrival, they required immediate attention. They were treated for fleas, and it was discovered that Zorro had an injury to his eye. Disa was suspected to be pregnant and placed on baby watch.
At first they were scared and skittish, their bodies still on high alert. After two weeks in care, both rabbits have begun to relax.
On Sunday evening, Disa’s foster family went to check on her and discovered she had not only been making a nest but it was filled with four tiny hairless babies! All are healthy, wiggly, and gaining weight. They will soon be sexed and named, followed by spay/neuter when they are old enough.
The time these six rabbits spend in Ruff Start’s care is crucial for their well-being. Please contribute today to sponsor their time in our care and the beginning of their bright futures so that we can continue to say “yes” to animals who need us.
**Ruff Start has been involved in the rescue of many dumped rabbits recently. Please reach out to a rescue organization if you are no longer able to care for your rabbits. Pet rabbits should never be released into the wild. Learn about the dangers here:
Dog looking at lake

Dangers of Blue-green Algae

By: Brent Honcharenko

Nature’s summertime glory also brings danger in the form of blue-green algae.

As a pet owner, few things are more satisfying than having time to get outside with your dog during the summer. Taking your best friend and trekking onto your favorite hiking trail can be just the relaxing medicine one needs in these uncertain and ever-changing times. Watching a dog in nature’s elements, simply enjoying life, can bring a few moments of serenity and pure joy to your, otherwise, busy day. But beware what lurks in the ponds and lakes behind the trees of those wooded pathways. That peaceful and joyous time with your favorite furry companion could end quickly if one important summertime precaution isn’t taken. Before allowing your dog to run up to that open body of water for a drink or to jump in for a quick swim, look to see if the surface is plagued with a thick, smelly, scum. If so, it could be blue-green algae and that is toxic to dogs.

Warnings about the dangers of blue-green algae, to dogs in particular, have increased tremendously over the past few years, and those warnings should not be ignored. The algae blooms are often found in non-flowing bodies of water and it can have a thick, pea soup appearance or it can be multi-colored (green, blue, red, and/or brown) and look like paint poured on the water surface. Alternatively, the algae can be in the form of foamy scum layers with blobs. Blue-green algae can be fatal to dogs if ingested in high concentrations. Dogs are more susceptible to ingesting the toxic substance because of their tendency to play or swim in water infested with it.

If your dog does become exposed to the algae, rinse him/her off immediately with clean water, before it has a chance to lick itself, and call your veterinarian. Dogs become ill when they ingest the toxins. If caught early enough, your veterinarian may be able to flush the toxins out before your dog becomes completely affected. If not treated immediately, the toxic algae can be fatal anytime from 15 minutes up to a couple of days after ingestion.

Pale hand in greenish water, with an open hand full of it.

Here are a few common signs and symptoms your dog may have ingested toxic blue-green algae:

  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Drooling
  • Neurological symptoms, including:
    • Weakness
    • Disorientation/confusion
    • Collapse/unconsciousness
    • Seizures
    • Breathing difficulties

Take care of your pets. Always have your dog(s) leashed when around non-familiar bodies of water and watch where they go when they do run freely. Share the dangers of blue-green algae with all of your dog-loving family and friends. Taking a few simple precautions will help ensure a wonderful summer with your family’s best friend.

Travis, a small, black coated dog with tongue sticking out. A woman stands behind the dog on the table.

The Story of Travis

You may remember him as dog “4906”, but he’s now known as Travis around here!
Travis has settled into his foster home with ease, leaving behind the local impound and thriving in his new environment. This sweet senior boy adores people and enjoys napping, sniffing around the backyard, and getting along well with other dogs and kids. Travis has no prey drive and prioritizes safety, preferring to travel in his kennel. While he’s still working on his potty training, he’s making progress. With an adorable smile and a loving demeanor, Travis is a true sweetheart.
At this time, we’re not quite sure about Travis’s ability to see and hear. His eyes are cloudy, and one of them seems to have an indentation. He is also missing quite a few teeth. We think he could be as old as 13 or 14 years, and it’s pretty clear that he hasn’t received much care—except for getting fed—for quite a while. But you know what’s amazing? Despite whatever he’s been through, he’s got the sweetest personality you can imagine.
Travis will be visiting with our veterinary team after a case of kennel cough clears up. At that time, he will receive a neuter and a full veterinary exam to determine any medical needs. Donating to Travis’s veterinary care will help ensure that this sweet senior boy receives the necessary medical attention and treatments to improve his quality of life, allowing him to continue spreading love and happiness in his new home.

Xylitol Toxicity

By: Hailee Ekeren

Xylitol Toxicity

What you need to know to keep your pets safe!

Xylitol is a sweetener, sugar substitute or sugar alcohol that is found in a wide variety of products. Xylitol is extremely toxic to pets even in small amounts.


When reading labels look for the following:

  • Xylitol
  • Birch Sugar/Extract
  • CAS 87-99-0
  • E967


  • Vomiting
  • Decreased Activity
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty Standing or Walking
  • Shaking or Seizures
  • Coma
  • Liver Failure
  • Bleeding Problems

Seek veterinary help immediately if you believe your pet may have eaten a product containing Xylitol or experiencing the above symptoms.

The Story of The Abandoned Bunnies

Update: All rabbits from this post have found fosters, but we have other rabbits still in need! Donations are still being accepted for their care and new fosters are always welcome!
Yesterday morning, we received an SOS message from our partners at a local impound, informing us about 20 rabbits abandoned on a lonely dirt road in Stillwater. These innocent creatures were left all alone, vulnerable and scared, without anyone to care for them. The impound isn’t set up to house small critters, let alone 20 of them. They needed rescue help as soon as possible.
Thanks to the incredible response from our compassionate community, we were able to find foster homes for 13 of the rabbits. These lucky ones have been picked up and transported by one of our dedicated volunteers, ensuring they will be safe, healthy, and well-cared for. However, our work is not done.
Sadly, 9 rabbits still remain behind, yearning for the warmth and comfort of a loving foster home. We implore you, if you have the space and means to open your heart to one of these precious creatures, please sign up to become a foster today. This is an urgent situation, and these bunnies need your help.
All of the rabbits are clean, healthy, and remarkably friendly. It is suspected that they were once cherished as house pets, only to be heartlessly discarded when their needs became overwhelming. One female gave birth yesterday, and the other females are likely pregnant, adding an additional layer of urgency to their situation.
Once in rescue, the rabbits will receive all food, supplies, and veterinary care, including spay/neuter by our veterinary team. Please donate today to help cover the cost of their care at Ruff Start. Join us in turning this tragic tale of abandonment into a story of compassion, hope, and second chances. Together, we can give these rabbits the care they deserve and prove that there is always light at the end of the tunnel for animals in need.

June is National Microchip Month!

By: Danielle Bardwell

June is National Microchip Month!

Summer has arrived! You know what that means, with all this beautiful weather our furry family members are bound to spend more time outdoors with us. Unfortunately, this means the chance of them wandering a little too far is also heightened. If your loving pet were to escape, it can be one of the most traumatic experiences for a pet owner. All you want is for them to be safe and to be found and reunited with you as soon as possible.

Microchipping is an important, inexpensive, and easy way to improve your chances of being reunited with your pet should they go missing. The entire process can be done in minutes! Bring your dog or cat to your vet to get your pet microchipped. The procedure can be done during a routine visit, or it can be done while your pet is undergoing another procedure. This relatively painless process is comparable to any other injection your pet receives. A hypodermic needle will insert a small rice-sized chip under the skin. The next step is to register your pet’s microchip ID number along with your contact information in the manufacturers database. The chip can be read by scanners that most vets and rescue organizations have access to. They can then look into the database and use your information entered to contact you and reunite you with your pet. Just remember to keep this data updated at all times if any of your contact information changes!

Did you know that by adopting an animal from Ruff Start Rescue, they will already have a microchip implanted before adoption, so no need to worry about it once you bring them home! Ruff Start Rescue quickly and easily transfers the contact information over to you once your pet has been adopted and brought home. This is a sure-fire way to keep your pet safe, and give you peace of mind.

Ruff Start Rescue