A Transformation You Need to See to Believe

By Brent Honcharenko

Her name was Jackie-O, a name synonymous with a prestigious, famous and wealthy lifestyle, and who once lived in a place they called “Camelot”. But for this Jackie-O, her life, prior to arriving at Ruff Start Rescue (RSR), in no way resembled a glamorous one. In fact, this Jackie-O came from the complete opposite; she was brought to RSR from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. She arrived emaciated, with severe mange all over her body, she had secondary skin infections, open wounds, and both of her eyes were infected. Her life and daily routine, before being rescued from the unforgiving environment and exposure she endured, consisted of simply finding a way to survive each and every day.

“She was really sick and in really rough shape,” RSR foster Shawn LaBarre explained. “It was bad and she wouldn’t have made it much longer out there on her own.”

Treatment began immediately in an effort to save Jackie-O. She not only had to be saved physically from her severe medical conditions, she had to be saved psychologically.

“She was physically and mentally shut down when she arrived,” LaBarre said. “We knew this was going to be quite the healing process.”

Not knowing what to expect, LaBarre took Jackie-O to her home and followed the veterinarian’s instructions; giving her antibiotics, applying medicated cream and bathing her one to two times a week.

Jackie-O sitting in a crate
Jackie-O's face
Jackie-O walking on a leash

Coming from the reservation, as far as LaBarre and the RSR staff knew, Jackie-O had never even been inside a building and they had no idea what her interaction with humans had, or hadn’t, been.

“It was scary for her the first time I brought her into the house,” LaBarre said. “I had to carry her in and you could tell she didn’t know what to think.”

From that point, LaBarre said she had to actually teach Jackie-O how to come in and out of the house, and then how to navigate the stairs.

“She was really timid at first, but she responded very well to encouragement and affection,” LaBarre added.

LaBarre, who has been a rescue foster for 11 years and a RSR foster for the past three years, explained that she has four other dogs in her home and they really aided in the process to help teach and guide Jackie-O how to be a good family member.

“Jackie-O learned a lot just from watching my dogs,” LaBarre said. “She watched how they interacted with one another, how they behaved in the house, how they interacted with me, and from that she learned how to become part of the family.”

When asked how she was so successful transforming Jackie-O, LaBarre said it’s actually quite simple; “First you earn their trust. You take it day-by-day and you follow their lead, but you also guide. It’s amazing how quickly they learn to trust you and they become comfortable with you in your home.”

LaBarre said Jackie-O, who is estimated to be just shy of one year old, arrived a very sick, shattered and quiet dog, but she left a happy, playful puppy. She added that Jackie-O really enjoyed living in the house and being around people, even when she had visitors, Jackie-O was always friendly towards them.

“Although one of her favorite things to do at my house was to sit out on the lawn chair in the backyard, I could tell by the time she left that Jackie-O wanted nothing to do with ever having to live outside again,” LaBarre concluded.

But, this wonderful story does not end here. Enter Jackie-O’s adopter, Chelsey Shoup.

Jackie-O sleeping in bed
Jackie-O relaxing in dog bed

Shoup and her boyfriend had been contemplating adopting a rescue dog for some time. They checked out RSR and the organization really appealed to them, so they completed the paperwork and became qualified to adopt.

Despite Jackie-O’s initial appearance, Shoup said she was attracted to her immediately, so they applied for her, but under the condition that she was “cat friendly”. It was already known that Jackie-O was good with other dogs and with people, but Shoup has cats, so they had to find out how Jackie-O acted around them.

Shoup said that LaBarre took Jackie-O to a neighbor’s house, with cats, to see how she interacted, and it was a non-issue. Then Jackie-O was brought to Shoup’s house and introduced her to her cats, and again, everything went great.

“She was so sweet and loving when we met her,” Shoup said. “After we saw how well she did with us and with our cats, we knew we wanted her. So we adopted her.”

By the time Shoup adopted Jackie-O, about a month after she arrived from South Dakota, she was in much better condition, but still needed routine medical attention and she continued on a good diet plan to help her gain weight.

In addition to a complete lifestyle change, Jackie-O also went through a name change after being adopted. Jackie-O is now Tater Tot.

“I’ve always liked pet names associated with food, and Tater Tot is such a Minnesota thing,” Shoup said. “It also sounds playful, like her, and a bit mischievous, like her.”

Chelsey Shoup and Tater Tot

Shoup said she was thankful for all the love, attention and training Tater Tot received at her foster home. Tater Tot arrived house-trained and very social. “She wasn’t even afraid of the vacuum cleaner,” Shoup added.

At the time of this writing, Shoup and her boyfriend have had Tater Tot for almost three weeks, and they couldn’t be happier. They go on walks every day. They go to the dog park three-to-four times a week. They’ve taken her camping, and they’ve even taken Tater Tot with to a local dog-friendly brewpub. Shoup said as much as Tater Tot loves being out-and-about with them, around other people, and around other dogs, she also really likes her own fenced-in backyard.

To say Tater Tot is unrecognizable today, compared to the day she was brought to RSR, is, in this case, the most complimentary statement that can be made.

“She really is just the sweetest dog we could ever imagine having,” Shoup said.

It’s almost certain that Tater Tot (formerly Jackie-O) is enjoying her new life with her new family, too, in her own version of “Camelot.”

Dog smelling flowers

Identifying Plants Toxic to Your Pets

By Brent Honcharenko

Being a new pet rescue foster or even a new pet adopter is an exciting time. You can be as prepared as you think, and with all good intentions, you believe in your heart that you have covered all the angles for the safety of your new arrival. But you may have easily overlooked one inconspicuous item (or several items) in and around your home that a new dog or cat may be attracted to – plants.

In all of your preparation, have you thought about the plants you have in your home and outside your home, and ensured they are not toxic to your new four-legged family member? This caution should apply to veteran pet owners as well. Keep in mind, that pretty plant you see at the market, that you immediately envision looking perfect in your living room, family room, kitchen, or out in the garden, could actually be a danger to your pet.

A quick Internet search of ‘plants toxic to pets’ immediately brings you to a number of website landing pages, links, and images. Here is a quick list of some popular plants you will want to avoid having in or outside of your home if you have a dog or cat (plant name – health symptoms if ingested):

  • Lilies – Kidney damage.
  • Sago Palm – Vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, liver failure.
  • Tulip – Intense gastrointestinal irritation.
  • Azalea – Vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, affects the central nervous system.
  • Oleander – Gastrointestinal irritation, abnormal heart function.
  • Castor Bean – Abdominal pain, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, seizures.
  • Cyclamen – Gastrointestinal irritation.
  • Kalanchoe (Widow’s Thrill) – Toxic to the heart.
  • Yew – Gastrointestinal irritation, affects the central nervous system.
  • Amaryllis – Vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain.
  • Autumn Crocus – Oral irritation, bloody vomiting, diarrhea.
  • Chrysanthemum – Drooling, vomiting, diarrhea.
  • English Ivy – Vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea.
  • Pothos (Devil’s Ivy) – Oral tissue irritation and swelling.
  • Schefflera (Dwarf Umbrella Tree) – Oral irritation, drooling, vomiting, difficulty swallowing.
Pothos (Devil’s Ivy)
Pothos (Devil’s Ivy)

Again, this is just a short list of some plants and their potential effects on your pets. All of these can be fatal if the ingestion and conditions are severe enough.

You can find more information, including much more comprehensive and detailed lists of indoor and outdoor plants toxic to pets, on the ASPCA site.

Balancing your home décor and landscaping while keeping the health and safety of your pets in mind takes just a few minutes of research. But it’s well worth it.

Volunteer holding puppy

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.

Virtual puppy & kitten

Virtual Puppy and Kitten Parties

Looking to add some cuteness and excitement to your life?! Our virtual puppy/kitten parties are the perfect addition to your weekly team meetings, board retreats, birthday parties, virtual happy hours, and more! We are offering up to 30 minutes of adorable puppy/kitten screentime for a one-time $100 (or more) donation that will go directly to the animals in our care.

Our furry pals are generally five months of age, or younger and parties consist of 3 or more puppies/kittens. Animals attending parties may or may not be available for adoption.

Please email events@ruffstartrescue.org for more information.

Virtual Parties graphic
Dog lounging in chair with sunglasses

Keep Your Pets Cool for the Summer

It’s essential to manage your pet’s temperature during hot summer weather, from dogs, cats, and rabbits to your squeaking guinea pig. Without the proper precautions, household companion animals may have a tough time regulating their body temperatures during those scorching summer days. Dogs pant, cats find a cold surface to lay on, and rabbits divert blood flow to their ears to keep cool. The way our pets regulate their body temperatures may not be enough to keep them safe. Rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, and other small animals, are susceptible to heat exhaustion while certain breeds of dogs and cats are equally at risk.

What to do when you’re not at home:

  • Keep the blinds shut and curtains closed. 
  • Always have fresh water available. Room temperature or slightly cool is ideal. Anything above that can offset your pet’s body temperature, potentially causing them to go into shock under certain circumstances. 
  • Use air conditioners or fans to keep the air at a comfortable temperature.
  • Keep cold surfaces like tile uncovered and accessible for your pets to lay on.

If you’re stuck at home with your pets and are looking for a distraction, don’t force them to play if they are resting on particularly hot days. They could be lazy, but they might also be keeping their body temperature down. Check back in with them later in the evening for a round of fetch. 

Although we may enjoy a fresh haircut in the summer, you should not shave your pets unless explicitly directed by your veterinarian.

A shaved coat prevents cold air from reaching their skin, and it doesn’t protect against the sun’s rays or bug bites. Cold air stays trapped against your pet’s skin when their coat is intact. Frequently brush your pet’s fur to keep excess hair out and help them look the best at the local dog park.

Sometimes things are out of our control, so it’s important to know the signs of heatstroke in pets.

Keep your veterinarian’s number saved in your phone for emergencies like this. You should give them a call right away if your pet is presenting any of the following symptoms:

  • restlessness 
  • excessive thirst
  • heavy panting
  • dark tongue
  • rapid heartbeat
  • fever
  • vomiting 
  • lack of coordination
  • lethargy
  • unconsciousness

Walking is an excellent exercise for your pooch.

During hot weather months, it’s important to remember that your pup’s paws are exposed to the heat of the surface they are walking on. If you can’t keep your hand comfortably on the walking surface for at least seven seconds, it’s likely too hot for your pup.

If your pup is still adamant about working on their summer body, consider the following tips for walking safely in hot temperatures:

  • Whip out the kiddie pool, your pup’s favorite toys, and play in the yard.
  • Walk on grass instead of pavement.
  • Consider shortening your walk. 
  • Walk in the early morning or the evening when the sun has gone down. You’ll still need to check the pavement because that heat can linger. 
  • Up your pup’s style with booties to protect their paws (and please send us videos of your pup walking in them for the first time).

Lastly, any pet shouldn’t be left in a vehicle for an extended time during extreme weather.

Check out the infographic below for more details and information on what you can do when you see a pet trapped in a hot car. We should all stay cool for the summer so we can continue making memories with our best buddies for the seasons to come.

Bringing The Heat created by FIGO Pet Insurance.
"Bringing The Heat " graphic created by FIGO Pet Insurance.
Lost dog found

Lost and Found Pets

Losing or finding an animal is stressful, so it’s important to know what to do next.

  • Be mindful that the animal that is lost or found may be frightened and can possibly cause harm.
  • Check for an identification tag. If the found animal isn’t wearing one you can bring them into a local veterinary clinic or animal welfare organization to scan for a microchip. Please call ahead of time before doing so.
  • Impounds can assist you based on the location where the animal is lost or found. Check out the tab below for a list of impounds by location.
  • If you find an adult cat that looks healthy, it’s home may be nearby. Your best option for the cat is to leave it where you find it unless it is sick, injured, or in immediate danger. Check back later to see if the cat has gone back home. It’s important to remember that cats have great instincts and like to go out and explore even if they’re not supposed to.
  • Social media is a helpful tool when you need to share lost or found animals. Be sure to include a clear picture, where the animal was found, and who to contact in your posts.

Ruff Start Rescue highly recommends utilizing Lost Dogs Minnesota resources. Especially their found dog checklist and lost dog checklist in your time of need.

The Retrievers provide excellent resources for lost and found animals as well.

Impounds to Contact by Location (A to Z)

AftonHillcrest Animal Hospital651-484-7211
AftonMally’s Sunshine Kennel715-246-2467
AftonSt. Croix Animal Friends651-730-6008
Airport PoliceBloomington Animal Control952-563-4942
Albert LeaFreeborn County Humane Society507-377-8501
AlbertvilleMonticello Animal Control612-859-6989
AndoverDover Kennel763-434-7332
AnnandaleAnnandale Vet Clinic320-274-3535
AnokaAnoka Animal Containment Facility763-576-2850
AnokaAnoka Animal Containment Facility763-576-2850
AnokaAnoka Animal Containment Facility763-576-2850
Apple ValleyCedar View Animal Hospital952-432-4928
Apple ValleyPalomino Pet Hospital952-953-8387
Arden HillsHillcrest Animal Hospital651-484-7211
Arden HillsSt Paul Animal Control651-266-1100
AustinMower County Humane Society507-437-7005
BaytownAnimal Humane Society Woodbury651-730-6008
BeckerMonticello Animal Control612-859-6989
Belle PlaineCritter Getter952-381-7739
BethelGratitude Farms(763) 331-2275
Big LakeMonticello Animal Control612-859-6989
BirchwoodOtter Lake Animal Care Center651-426-8871
BlaineDover Kennel763-434-7332
BloomingtonBloomington Animal shelter952-563-4942
BrainerdCrow Wing Heartland Animal Rescue Team AKA “HART”218-829-4141
Brooklyn CenterPUPS763-494-5999
BuffaloCrossroads Animal Shelter763-684-1234
BuffaloThe Humane Society of Wright County763-682-1029
BurnsvilleAmerican Boarding952-894-3647
BurnsvilleBurnsville Animal Control952-894-3647
BurnsvilleMinnesota Valley Humane Society952-894-5000
CambridgeCambridge Police Department763-331-2275
CambridgeIsanti County Humane Society651-689-2334
CarverCountryside Veterinarian and Feed952-442-4200
CentervilleOtter Lake Animal Care Center651-426-8871
ChanhassenChanhassen Vet Clinic952-934-8862
ChanhassenCountryside Veterinarian and Feed952-442-4200
ChaskaCarver/Scott Humane Society952-368-3553
ChaskaChaska Valley Vet Clinic952-448-2936
ChaskaFour Paws Animal Control952-894-9065
ChisagoNorthwoods Humane Society651-982-0240
Chisago CityLinstrom AMC651-257-0622
Circle PinesOtter Lake Animal Care Center651-426-8871
ColeraineItasca – Star of the North Humane Society218-245-3732
Columbia HeightsCamden Pet Hospital612-522-4374
Columbia HeightsPet Central612-781-6941
Columbus TownshipDover Kennel763-434-7332
Coon RapidsCoon Rapids Humane Society763-434-7332
CorcoranCorcoran Pet Care Center763-420-3930
CorcoranMonticello Animal Control763-295-3808
Corinna TownshipAnnandale Vet Clinic320-274-3535
Cottage GroveAnimal Humane Society Woodbury651-730-6008
Cottage GrovePark Grove Pet Clinic651-459-9663
CrookstonPolk County Humane Society218-281-7225
DaytonMonticello Animal Control612-859-6989
DeephavenVillage Animal Hospital952-474-4194
DelanoCrossroads Animal Shelter952-474-4194
DellwoodHillcrest Animal Hospital651-484-7211
Denmark TownshipAnimal Humane Society Woodbury651-730-6008
Detroit LakesBecker County Humane Society218-847-0511
DuluthAnimal Allies Humane Society (St. Louis County)218-722-5341
EaganPilot Knob Animal Hospital651-452-8160
East BethelGratitude Farms763-331-2275
Eden PrairieBloomington Animal Control952-563-4942
EdinaHopkins Pet Hospital952-935-5567
Elk RiverBarrington Oaks Vet Hospital763-441-4000
Elko New MarketCritter Getter952-381-7739
ExcelsiorS. Lake Animal Control952-258-5321
ExcelsiorSouth Lake Minnetonka Police Dept952-474-3261
FairmontMartin County Humane Society507-238-1885
Falcon HeightsHillcrest Animal Hospital651-484-7211
Falcon HeightsSt Paul Animal Control651-266-1100
FarmingtonCastle Rock Kennels651-463-7387
Fergus FallsHumane Society of Otter Tail County218-739-3494
Forest LakeHillcrest Animal Hospital651-484-7211
Forest LakeOtter Lake Animal Hospital651-426-8871
FridleyBrighton Vet Clinic651-636-1063
FridleyDover Kennel763-434-7332
FridleySkyline Vet Clinic763-574-9892
GlenwoodPope County Humane Society320-634-3491
Golden ValleyGolden Valley Police Dept763-593-8079
Grant TownshipHillcrest Animal Hospital651-484-7211
GreenwoodS. Lake Animal Control952-474-3261
Ham LakeGratitude Farms763-331-2275
Ham LakeM. Skinner763-444-4247
HamelMedina Police Dept763-473-9209
HastingsFriends of Animals DBA Animal Ark651-438-9196
HastingsShamrock Animal Hospital651-423-3565
HibbingHibbing Animal Shelter (St. Louis County)218-263-4050
HilltopBrighton Vet Clinic651-636-1063
HopkinsHopkins Pet Hospital952-935-5566
Howard LakeCrossroads Animal Shelter763-684-1234
Hudson TownshipAnimal Humane Society Woodbury651-730-6008
HugoHillcrest Animal Hospital651-484-7211
HugoOtter Lake Animal Hospital651-426-8871
HutchinsonCrow River Vet Clinic320-587-4888
IndependenceCrossroads Animal Shelter763-684-1234
International FallsKoochiching County Humane Society218-283-4651
Inver Grove HeightsOakcrest Kennels651-451-7687
Inver Grove HeightsS St. Paul Animal Hospital651-455-5897
IsantiCity of Isanti763-444-4761
Isanti countyIsanti county Animal Control320-492-5865
JordanCritter Getter952-381-7739
Lake CityHiawatha Humane Society of Lake City651-345-4793
Lake ElmoAnimal Humane Society Woodbury651-730-6008
Lake ElmoNone- call Police651-439-9381
LakelandAnimal Humane Society Woodbury651-730-6008
LakevilleDakota Pet Hospital952-469-1525
LakevilleLakeville Animal Control952-985-4800
LauderdaleHillcrest Animal Hospital651-484-7211
Le SueurCritter Getter952-381-7739
LexingtonOtter Lake Animal Care Center651-426-8871
LindstromNorthwoods Humane Society651-982-0240
Lino LakesOtter Lake Animal Care Center651-426-8871
LinwoodGratitude Farms763-331-2275
LinwoodM. Skinner763-444-4247
LitchfieldMeeker County Humane Society952-693-7648
Little CanadaHillcrest Animal Hospital651-484-7211
Little CanadaSt Paul Animal Control651-266-1100
Little FallsMorrison County Humane Society320-749-2865
LivoniaPrinceton Vet Clinic763-389-2440
LorettoMedina Police Dept763-473-9209
MahtomediHillcrest Animal Hospital651-484-7211
MahtomediOtter Lake Animal Care Center651-426-8871
MankatoHumane Society of Mankato (Blue Earth/Nicollet)507-625-6373
Maple GrovePUPS763-494-5999
Maple LakeAnnandale Vet Clinic320-274-3535
Maple PlainCrossroads Animal Shelter763-684-1234
MaplewoodHillcrest Animal Hospital651-484-7211
MaplewoodSt Paul Animal Control651-266-1100
Marine on St. CroisOtter Lake Animal Care Center651-426-8871
Marine on St. CroixAHS-Woodbury651-730-6008
MarshallHumane Society of Lyon County507-537-7966
May TownshipAHS-Woodbury651-730-6008
May TownshipOtter Lake Animal Care Center651-426-8871
MedinaMedina Police Dept763-473-9209
Mendota HeightsALS Boarding Kennel952-452-6809
Mendota HeightsFour Paws Animal Control952-894-9065
Mendota HeightsS St. Paul Animal Hospital952-894-9065
MinneapolisCamden Pet Hospital612-522-4374
MinneapolisMinneapolis Animal Control612-673-3000
MinnetonkaVillage Animal Hospital952-474-4194
MinnetristaCrossroads Animal Shelter763-684-1234
MonticelloMonticello Animal Control612-859-6989
MoundCrossroads Animal Shelter763-684-1234
Mounds ViewBrighton Vet Clinic651-636-1063
Mounds ViewOtter Lake Animal Care Center651-426-8871
New BrightonBrighton Vet Hospital651-636-1063
New BrightonSt Paul Animal Control651-266-1100
New HopePUPS763-494-5999
New MarketCritter Getter952-381-7739
New PragueCritter Getter952-381-7739
New Richmond WIMally’s Sunshine Kennel715-246-2467
New UlmBrown County Humane Society507-359-2312
NewportS St. Paul Animal Hospital651-455-5897
North BranchM. Skinner763-444-4247
North OaksHillcrest Animal Hospital651-484-7211
North OaksSt Paul Animal Control651-266-1100
North St. PaulHillcrest Animal Hospital651-484-7211
North St. PaulOtter Lake Animal Care Center651-426-8871
NorthfieldCountryside Animal Hospital and Kennels507-645-4477
NowthenDover Kennels763-434-7332
Oak Park HeightsAnimal Humane Society Woodbury651-730-6008
OakdaleSt Paul Animal Control651-266-1100
Oakdale – catsHillcrest Animal Hospital651-484-7211
Oakdale – dogsAHS-Woodbury651-730-6008
OronoCrossroads Animal Shelter763-684-1234
OsseoNone- call Police763-424-5444
OtsegoMonticello Animal Control612-859-6989
OwatonnaSteele County Humane Society507-451-4512
Park RapidsHubbard County Humane Society218-732-3165
PrincetonPrinceton Vet Clinic763-389-2440
Prior LakeFour Paws Animal Control952-894-9065
RamseyAnoka Animal Containment Facility763-576-2850
Red WingGoodhue County Humane Society651-388-5286
Redwood FallsRedwood County Humane Society507-637-8606
RichfieldBloomington Animal Control952-563-4942
RobbinsdaleCamden Pet Hospital612-522-4374
RobbinsdaleGolden Valley Police Dept763-593-8079
RochesterOlmstead County Humane Society507-288-7226
RockfordCrossroads Animal Shelter763-684-1234
RogersMonticello Animal Control612-859-6989
RosemountShamrock Animal Hospital651-322-2323
RosemountShamrock Animal Hospital651-423-3565
RosevilleSt Paul Animal Control651-266-1100
SavageFour Paws Animal Control952-894-9065
ScandiaHillcrest Animal Hospital651-484-7211
ScandiaWashington County Sheriffs Department651-439-9381
Scott CountyCritter Getter952-381-7739
ShakopeeFour Paws Animal Control952-894-9065
ShoreviewHillcrest Animal Hospital651-484-7211
ShoreviewSt Paul Animal Control651-266-1100
ShorewoodSouth Lake Minnetonka Police Dept952-474-3261
South St. PaulS St. Paul Animal Hospital651-455-5897
South St. PaulS St. Paul Animal Hospital651-455-5897
Spring Lake ParkDover Kennel763-434-7332
Spring Lake ParkHillcrest Animal Hospital651-484-7211
Spring ParkCrossroads Shelter763-684-1234
St. AnthonyHillcrest Animal Hospital651-484-7211
St. AnthonyPet Central612-781-6941
St. BonifaciousCrossroads Animal Shelter763-684-1234
St. CloudTri-County Humane Society ( serving Benton/Sherburne/Stearns Counties)320-252-0896
St. FrancisGratitude Farms763-331-2275
St. Louis ParkSt. Louis Park Police Dept952-924-2618
St. Mary’s PointAHS-Woodbury651-730-6008
St. MichaelMonticello Animal Control612-859-6989
St. MichaelMonticello Animal Control763-295-3808
St. PaulAHS- St. Paul651-645-7387
St. PaulSt Paul Animal Control651-266-1100
St. Paul ParkS St. Paul Animal Hospital651-455-5897
StacyHillcrest Animal Hospital651-484-7211
StacyNorthwoods Humane Society651-982-0240
StillwaterAnimal Humane Society Woodbury651-730-6008
Stillwater TwshpHillcrest Animal Hospital651-484-7211
Tonka BaySouth Lake Minnetonka Police Dept952-474-3261
Two HarborsLake County Humane Society218-834-3935
Vadnais HeightsHillcrest Animal Hospital651-484-7211
Vadnais HeightsSt Paul Animal Control651-266-1100
VirginiaMesabi Humane Society (St. Louis County)218-741-7425
W. St. PaulS St. Paul Animal Hospital651-455-5897
WaconiaCountryside Veterinarian and Feed952-442-4200
WaconiaWaconia Vet Clinic952-442-2119
WasecaWaseca County Humane Society507-835-4272
WatertownCountry Kennels952-657-2575
WaverlyCrossroads Animal Shelter763-694-1234
WayzataWayzata Police Dept952-404-5340
West LakelandHillcrest Animal Hospital651-484-7211
West St. PaulS St. Paul Animal Hospital651-455-5897
White Beak TwshpHillcrest Animal Hospital651-484-7211
White Bear LakeAnimal Control and Management651-426-4013
White Bear LakeHillcrest Animal Hospital651-484-7211
White Bear LakeSt Paul Animal Control651-266-1100
White Bear TownshipSt Paul Animal Control651-266-1100
WillernieHillcrest Animal Hospital651-484-7211
WillmarHawk Creek Animal Shelter320-235-0290
WinonaWinona Area Humane Society507-452-3135
WoodburyAnimal Humane Society Woodbury651-730-6008
WoodlandVillage Animal Hospital952-474-4194
WyomingChisago County Humane Society651-462-2125
ZimmermanPrinceton Vet Clinic763-389-2440
Stray kitten

Finding Stray Kittens

Animal welfare organizations dub the increase of litters of kittens as kitten season. This time of year typically occurs during the spring and fall in Minnesota. The influx of kittens often overwhelms animal welfare organizations, especially in areas with pet overpopulation. In some instances, it may be best to leave stray kittens where they are, especially if they are under eight weeks old. Please review the following chart from Alley Cat Allies to help determine a kitten’s age.

How old is that kitten?

How old is that kitten chart

The first step is to conclude if the kittens are without a mom or unsupervised. Mama cats will leave their kittens to find food or scout out new locations. If the kittens are sleeping soundly and look healthy, the mom is likely to return. It is essential to check in with the kitten every hour or so to determine if the mom is coming back. The mom might even move her kittens between you checking in on them periodically. Trielle Gritton from Best Friends Animal Society-Utah recommends sprinkling flour around the kittens and looking for paw prints when you check back in later.

Best Friends Animal Society recommends that if the kittens are not abandoned but are in danger where they are, you can move them to a safer location in the immediate area, so the mama cat can still find them when she returns. If you can, please provide them with basic needs, including shelter, food, and water. You can help the mom and kittens the most by leaving them alone until they are old enough to be taken in. When the kittens are between 6-8 weeks old, they are ready to be taken in WITH their mom.

If the kittens appear sickly, underweight, or dehydrated, and if their mom doesn’t return, please contact your local animal welfare organization for assistance.

Interested in learning more about what to do if you find a lost or stray animal? Visit our Lost & Found Pets page for additional resources.


Finding Wildlife in Need

Finding orphaned or injured wildlife is alarming as well as exciting. If a wild animal is noticeably injured or orphaned, it likely needs help. Please view the information in this article before attempting to help the animal. It is imperative to keep yourself safe while being mindful of the animal’s well-being. Included below are local rehabilitation centers and information on how to become a certified wildlife rehabilitator.

The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota shares the following criteria where a wild animal needs help.

  • Bleeding/obviously injured/you can see bruising
  • Emaciated/ribs showing
  • Has flies, worms or ants on it
  • Has been handled by a cat
  • Was alone outside overnight or all day long
  • Was sitting next to a deceased parent

The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota shares the following steps for safely containing a wild animal.

  1. Find a container with a lid that you can secure.
  2. Punch air holes in the lid.
  3. If it’s a small, non-rabies vector animal, drop a hand/kitchen towel over the animal, gently pick it up and place it in the box with the towel. Secure the lid. If it’s a larger animal, set the box or transport tub on its side next to the animal. Using your snow shovel gently nudge or slide the animal into the box. Slowly tilt the box upright so the animal gently slides to the bottom of it. Place a towel in the box with the animal to help reduce stress during transport. Secure the lid.
  4. Please notify the rehabilitation center or rehabilitator if the animal can cause you physical harm (herons, loons, swans, fox, etc.). They can help you determine the best approach. Your city’s non-emergency police may also help with containing the animal.

Be mindful that you likely need to transport the animal you find to the rehabilitation center or rehabilitator. Please don’t feed or medicate the animal unless you receive explicit instructions from the wildlife rehabilitation center or rehabilitator.

Interested in becoming a wildlife rehabilitator?

If you want to become a wildlife rehabilitator, please check out the resources below. The Minnesota DNR strongly recommends that you take introductory wildlife rehabilitation training courses, and get hands-on experience as a volunteer working with practicing rehabilitators before applying. Your safety and the animal’s wellbeing are of the utmost importance.

link and Zelda

What 12 Hours in Rescue Can Do

A popular place to abandon pets is at the dump. That’s where young puppies, Link, and Zelda, roamed and looked for scraps for several days. They needed to hide from predators and avoid dangerous objects in the dump at only 10 weeks old. It’s challenging to believe that there are people out there that equate puppies to trash. Thankfully, our rescue partner Lightshine Canine: A Rez Dog Rescue rescued Link and Zelda before it was too late.

Link and Zelda being rescued
Zelda drinking water
Link being pet

The hungry, tick, and flea-covered puppies hitched a ride to Minnesota, arriving around 9 pm. A Ruff Start Rescue foster family with three excited young girls ready to give them the love they deserve greeted the exhausted and malnourished pups upon arrival. After a bath, supper, and much-needed rest, this is what the puppies looked like 12 hours later.

Zelda laying in the grass
Link walking on the beach
Zelda playing with a ball
Link chewing a stick on the beach
Link and Zelda going on a walk
Link and Zelda playing in the forest

Link has an eye injury and likely needs his eye removed. Thanks to Ruff Start’s community of fosters, adopters, volunteers, and supporters, caring for these puppies is possible. In less than a day, rescue changed Link and Zelda’s lives forever. Now they are with their forever families. If you want to help puppies like Link and Zelda consider becoming a foster or donating to our animal care fund today!

Zelda holding hands with her new owners
Zelda playing with a Samoyed
Link cuddling a little girl
Spike and Stella

How Spike and Stella Saved a Life

When you rescue an animal, you change their life. They often return the favor with unconditional love and laughs. Some go beyond that. Here’s a story of how Ruff Start alums, Spike and Stella, saved their mom’s life.

Jayme adopted Ruff Start Rescue alums, Stella a Pomeranian, in 2011, and Spike an Italian Greyhound/Papillon in 2014. Spike thinks of himself as a human child. At his request, Jayme rocked him to sleep each night until he was one.

Spike and Jayme bonded immediately. Two years before adopting Spike, Jayme suffered horrible injuries from a car accident that left her incapacitated. Because of this, she has chronic pain.

Spike assigned jobs for everyone in the family, and unbeknownst to them, a job for himself.

On July 4th, 2017, Jayme’s husband and kids left for a family picnic in the morning. They believed that Jayme slept in from a surge in her chronic pain.

Spike refused to let them leave.

If you can’t tell, Spike isn’t a big dog. He’s even the quiet dog in the house only barking occasionally. This morning, Spike wouldn’t stop barking at them. With Spike’s behavior being so odd, Jayme’s husband asked him to “show me,” and Spike darted up the stairs waiting to see if they would follow. They did.

Spike flew into Jayme’s room, looking back to see if they were still following him. He jumped furiously at the bed. Jayme’s husband realized something was terribly wrong.

Stella hadn’t left Jayme’s side for 18+ hours.

They rushed Jayme to the hospital. She had gone into acute kidney failure.

“I wouldn’t have made it another hour had Spike not intervened.”

Spike knows a few commands but hasn’t had any formal training. Since that day, Spike has taken his “job” to new heights. He “monitors” Jayme for pain and treats her with extra snuggles. Spike also gives her kisses when the anxiety and PTSD are too much to handle.

What did we do to deserve dogs?

“For that, I will forever be grateful to all of Ruff Start for all that you do. The animals you rescue and find loving homes sometimes save us too.”

Spike and Jayme
Ruff Start Rescue