Kitten nursing on a bottle

Kitten Pack Sponsorships

Kitten season is quickly approaching! We have a handful of pregnant cats in the Rescue while orphaned kittens are started to enter through our doors. We can never seem to keep kitten supplies on the shelf and could really use your help to make sure our kittens have what they need to thrive, and the easiest way to help is by sponsoring a kitten pack!

Kitten packs include everything a growing kitten needs: wet and dry kitten food, non-clumping litter, milk replacement, and toys. You can sponsor a kitten pack for $50 and know that your donation will ensure one kitten will have everything they need!

You can also order kitten items from our Amazon or Chewy wish lists. The highest priority needs are wet and dry kitten food.

Thank you for helping the youngest of our cuties start their lives off on the right paw!
Chocolate lab puppy

Resources for Newly Adopted Pets

If you’ve added a few extra paws to your family recently, you may be wondering what steps you can take to set your new pet up for success in your home. Despite their adorable face and desperate pleas to break the rules, it is imperative to start implementing a routine with your pet right away. Plenty of resources are out there, but where do you start? Check out Ruff Start’s top picks listed below. If you have additional questions, please email us at

Basket of puppies

Reasons to become a puppy foster

Help save puppies!

At Ruff Start Rescue, puppy season is in full swing! We take in puppies that land in overcrowded shelters in the south, puppies born in challenging conditions on reservations, and unplanned litters close to home. Please help us help them by signing up to foster! We can only save as many puppies as we have foster homes. We guarantee puppy kisses and, of course, the wonderful feeling of helping animals in need.

But don’t take our word for it. Check out what our puppy fosters have to say!

Santa fostering testimonial

I took two little 5-week-old puppies. I didn’t know what to expect plus I was very nervous because I’ve never done that before. But within that first day, I fell in love with those little faces. I was also surprised how easy it was with two. They helped each other. The puppy kisses were the best. Watching them grow and changing each day was the most rewarding. I would say everyone should experience this at least just once.

–Sandra, RSR Foster

Dani fostering testimonial

Although my husband and I have only been with Ruff Start for about 3.5 months, we have already fostered 3 puppies and loved the experience every time. Nothing beats saving dogs and getting puppy snuggles and kisses while doing it!

–Dani, RSR Foster

Kelly B fostering testimonial

Who wouldn’t want a puppy to snuggle and then hand off to their new family? Kind of like babies that aren’t yours, Puppy fostering is awesome for us as our resident dogs are picky with their friends, and we can safely and easily separate them. Fostering teaches our kids responsibility, compassion, and the importance of helping animals in need – and it is fun for us all!

–Kelly B., RSR Foster

Patti fostering testimonial

Our first fostering experience was a very pregnant Rez dog; she arrived on a Saturday and delivered her four puppies the following Tuesday. We didn’t really know what we were in for, but we were armed with scissors, dental floss, and iodine, all of which we never had to use; we just witnessed miracle after miracle being born. Watching those and the next and the next babies grow, eyes opening, then creeping around, then running and learning to bark has been our greatest honor! We are constantly laughing, doing laundry, washing the floor; the weeks fly by and they suddenly leave for their forever homes. We have met the most wonderful adopters; we feel grateful and satisfied in those we have chosen to love “our babies” for their whole lives. It’s been such an enriching experience we have brought in moms and pups over and over again – loving and cherishing them all. So far we have had 37 canines of all ages, and one bunny, come through our home in 17 months … and look forward to continuing this path and welcoming many more!

–Patti, RSR Foster

Leanne fostering testimonial

I fostered a shy girl from the Rez, who ‘might be pregnant. I decided to roll the dice. Luckily I was working from home at that point or I probably would have had to find her a new foster when they confirmed she was going to be a mama! I dove in headfirst, using whatever resources I could get my hands on. It was a beautiful experience and I learned so much – not the least of which was how amazing these mamas are. Mama was only 55lbs but the puppies were HUGE – and as they outgrew their puppy pens and needed space to run, I recruited helpers to come over and puppy wrangle while I cleaned pens. It’s amazing how willing people are to come to play with puppies! Puppies are an amazing weight loss plan – my Fitbit step count increased dramatically as they got older – you never stop moving! The puppies all found simply amazing adopters who still send me updates. And best of all, mama landed in the most loving, patient, and perfect home of all. She deserved it. I’m trying some other fostering experiences now, but I know I’ll go back to puppies someday and I can’t wait.

–Leanne, RSR foster

Kristi fostering testimonial

“Sometimes things don’t go as planned” is how I would explain our first puppy fostering experience. It’s pushed me to do things I didn’t think I could do. However, the support we received from others within RSR has been strong. Things are not always rainbows and sunshine in rescue, but I am so thankful for the experience and support we received as we worked through understanding Parvo and nursing our crew back to good health. Although we lost one sibling we gained two very spunky and fun pups. Whom are now healthy and happy pooping machines. We normally do kittens/young cats, but we would be happy to continue as a landing spot for Parvo recovery pups or if/when we clear the quarantine period another set of pups. The experience is 100% worth it because none of them would have stood a chance had they been left in the conditions they were rescued from.

–Kristi, RSR Foster

Brenda fostering testimonial

“Crazy Cat Lady” here with my first foster puppies. They are busy!!! Lots of  ? while working on this potty training thing. Way too many puppy kisses…most unexpectedly. But who’s complaining. Lol ?? It’s awesome to see their individual personalities emerge as they adjust in their new surroundings. I’ve met so many wonderful people while fostering and within the Rescue.

–Brenda, RSR Foster, and Self-Proclaimed Crazy Cat Lady

Taya fostering testimonial

My first RSR foster puppy was an 8 week old FTA. My most recent puppies were 1.5-week old bottle baby brothers. What I love about fostering puppies is having little babies in the house. It is hard work, but it’s hard work with a purpose. We are setting these little ones up for the rest of their lives and it is so rewarding. It is also a great family experience. My school-age daughter has learned so much about handling mouthy puppies, teaching commands, and bodily functions. My resident dogs (one of whom is “selective” about dog friends) really help show our fosters the way. ? Charles Schulz was so right when he said, “Happiness is a warm puppy.

–Taya, RSR Foster

Crystal fostering testimonial

We haven’t had puppies in a while, we are hoping to get into that again because I miss it. Watching them get their personalities and play with each other is the best, along with their discoveries. This is one of my favorite pics with puppies. It was my son’s Junior Prom, and I was like ‘we gotta bring puppies to the photoshoot’ I mean who can’t say no to puppies with teenagers all dressed up? Puppies are a great prop!

–Crystal, RSR Foster

Jodi fostering testimonial

I fostered a car hit Rez pup with a broken hip that healed up nicely and he had resource guarding issues. Had him 2 1/2 months before he found his perfect home this past October. I so wanted to keep him but with two of my own at home, I could not add a third! Still miss him!

–Jodi, RSR Foster

Tasha fostering testimonial

We’ve fostered 51 young puppies over the years and it’s always hectic and messy and every single time I do it again because it’s so rewarding to see them grow and change and develop little personalities and find their forever families!

–Tasha, RSR Foster

Lauren fostering testimonial

Bovie was our first and only puppy foster, but he certainly won’t be the last! He was handsome, smart, and kept us all on our toes (including our resident dog, Ridge!) He was such a joy to have with us for a few weeks, and he was adopted by the perfect family. They have continued to send updates and it has been so fun watching him grow and learn with them! On his recent trip to the vet, the tech said he was the best-mannered pup she has seen. His forever family adores him and so do we.

–Lauren, RSR Foster and Volunteer

Laura fostering testimonial

We do not have any foster puppies in the house right now because we had a puppy with parvo. We are missing all the cuddles, laughs, chaos, and cuddles! Fostering puppies has been such a blessing for our entire family! Seeing them thrive and go to amazing homes make all the work worth it.

–Laura, RSR Foster

Jenni fostering testimonial

We love taking puppies – especially with medical needs.

–Jenni, RSR Foster and Volunteer

Kelly E fostering testimonial

I never thought I could be a puppy foster, but the joy it brings to my fearful resident dog is so heartwarming.

–Kelly E., RSR Foster

Have we convinced you to give fostering puppies a try?

When you foster with Ruff Start Rescue, you are surrounded by a community of animal lovers to help you every step of the way. All the supplies you need are provided by the Rescue. All we ask is that you love your fosters, help them get to their vetting appointments, and prepare them for their future families. And, hey, if you decide to adopt your foster, that’s always a win in our book.

Have questions? Email us at We can’t wait to welcome you to the team!
Two cute puppies

Can’t foster? Donate a puppy pack!

Puppy packs include everything a growing pup needs: wet and dry puppy food, puppy pads, milk replacement, and toys. You can sponsor a puppy pack for $50 and know that your donation will ensure one puppy will have everything they need!

You can also order puppy items from our Amazon or Chewy wishlists. The highest priority needs are wet and dry puppy food.

Thank you for helping the youngest of our cuties start their lives off on the right paw!
Puppy chewing on a bone

Puppy Pack Sponsorships

Puppy season started early this year. We’ve already had over 160 puppies join us since January 1st and we’ll likely be welcoming more than 120 puppies in the next month. We can never seem to keep puppy supplies on the shelf and could really use your help to make sure our puppies have what they need to thrive, and the easiest way to help is by sponsoring a puppy pack!

Puppy packs include everything a growing pup needs: wet and dry puppy food, puppy pads, milk replacement, and toys. You can sponsor a puppy pack for $50 and know that your donation will ensure one puppy will have everything they need!

You can also order puppy items from our Amazon or Chewy wishlists. The highest priority needs are wet and dry puppy food.

Thank you for helping the youngest of our cuties start their lives off on the right paw!


By Sam Sommers

For many dogs that end up in rural shelters, rescue is their last hope.

Edwin is a senior Boxer mix who was surrendered by his original owner in January 2021 to a shelter in Laredo, TX, with a note that simply read: “owner could no longer care for.” Right away, the employees at the shelter noticed that Edwin had trouble using his back legs and suspected hip dysplasia. Edwin also tested positive for heartworm, but the staff said that he was a sweet and spunky boy with plenty of life left in him. Unfortunately, many animal shelters do not have funds available to provide adequate care for animals with special health needs, so some of the dogs are placed on a “code red” list, which means that the animal has a date set to be euthanized. Edwin had only hours left before Ruff Start Rescue answered the call for help.

One of our Volunteer Intake Managers, Kelly, took a special interest in Edwin’s case. Kelly found him on the code red list and made it her personal mission to save Edwin– she threw the Hail Mary pass to see if the Ruff Start Vetting team could help with his medical needs and if a foster could offer him a temporary home. Thankfully, no one hesitated to say yes to helping this deserving boy.

With a foster commitment in Minnesota, Edwin secured a spot on the Ruff Start Rescue transport van. He had a soft and squishy bed waiting for him at the Ruff Start office in Princeton when he arrived. Kelly, the Intake Manager who handled Edwin’s rescue, met him upon arrival and spoke to Edwin to let him know he was safe and that we would take the best care of him. Kelly said, “his eyes told me that he definitely understood.”

After the Ruff Start Rescue vetting team took a closer look at Edwin, it was noted that Edwin has an old cruciate ligament tear (like an ACL tear in humans) and major muscle atrophy in his rear legs–his knuckles move too quickly for his back legs to follow. Edwin was also recently neutered, and the dragging of his back legs was irritating the incision area. Edwin was fitted with a front/rear harness with handles for people to hang onto to help him get around. He was started on medications for pain, anti-inflammatory, antibiotics, and joint supplements. Edwin was also lucky enough to receive a donated wheelchair from a partner rescue–he is still learning to use it, but he enjoys the newfound freedom of mobility!

Edwin will need ongoing medical care, so it takes a special type of foster to provide the right kind of home for him. His foster mom has nothing but wonderful things to say about him:

“Edwin has settled in beautifully at my house with my pack of pups. He absolutely loves my son! Edwin sleeps in bed every night with my son and his two big pups, Harley and Murph. He is a super special boy that deserves the world! He loves to snuggle and likes it when you’re right with him.

I’m super thankful that Ruff Start Rescue took a chance on this boy and honored that we are able to give him a chance at a loving home until he finds his forever! He deserves a home with a family that will see him for who he is and not what his limitations are.”

Ruff Start Rescue was able to say yes to Edwin–along with thousands of others like him–because of the wonderful work that our volunteers, fosters, adopters and supporters are doing to rescue these animals. You can be a part of this life-saving effort by donating today! Even if you only have $5 to spare, every little bit counts. 

Edwin's carride
Edwin enjoying a car ride.
Edwin relaxing in bed
Edwin relaxing in his foster home.


By Brent Honcharenko

To look at him when he was found wandering the streets in Houston, TX, many would not have offered much hope. When he was picked up by animal control and taken to BARC Animal Shelter, he was in serious condition and needed immediate help. Thankfully compassion, love, and optimism prevailed over other options, and a new life was about to begin for Diego that day.

“He was in bad shape,” Carlos Ortega said. “He was not healthy at all, and he actually looked worse in person than he did in the pictures we saw of him. Much of his coat was missing, he had open wounds that were bleeding and oozing from infection, and his paws were extremely swollen. He was a big mess.”

Ortega and his wife volunteer at the shelter and took Diego home. That’s where they started him on his road to recovery and his new journey.

“The first thing we did was give him a bath,” Ortega noted. “Next, we called the local veterinary clinic and got him in to be checked over.”

Ortega said Diego was in such tough shape that after being seen at the clinic, they recommended he stay there for few days to initiate proper treatments and monitor him. The clinic started Diego on a diet plan, hydrotherapy procedures, medicated baths, and skin conditioning.

Ortega said that when Diego went back home with him and began healing, his personality started to develop and come out. Ortega believes that Diego had been a family pet at one time because, despite his condition, he was friendly and social, displayed no signs of aggression, and was, to his surprise, house trained. But Diego’s past remains unknown; whether he was a runaway that got lost and couldn’t find his way back home or if he was intentionally discarded and abandoned, only Diego knows.

Diego's swollen feet
Diego’s feet were swollen and sore.
Diego and his foster Carlos
Diego with his foster, Carlos.

Ortega believes that Diego had probably been out on his own for at least a few months because of the traumatic condition he was in when he was found.

“We’ve been fostering for many years, and Diego was one of worst health cases I’d ever seen,” Ortega said. “The condition he was in didn’t occur in just a couple weeks of being out on his own. It took a while to get that bad.”

Ortega and his wife nursed Diego to a healthy enough condition that he could be safely transported. Ortega has worked with Ruff Start Rescue (RSR) for about a year-and-a-half, and he was able to help coordinate the transfer of Diego from the Lone Star State to North Star State.

“By the time he left Texas, Diego was on a healthy diet plan, his swelling had gone down, and we were able to take him on short walks, and his open wounds were closed and scabbed over,” Ortega reported.

When Diego arrived in Minnesota in mid-November, he was still considered ‘skin and bones’ compared to normal standards, but the fosters who received him and cared for him were already well aware of Diego’s recent background and worked hard to continue the wonderful work that Ortega had started in Texas.

Rescue Foster Shelby Anderson said the first thing she noticed about Diego was how well-behaved he was.

“I would pet him and reassure him as he was going through his medical procedures and even while he was getting his baths, and he would just stand there and endure whatever was happening and lick my hands,” Anderson said. “He was very well mannered.”

The other thing Anderson noticed almost immediately is how loving Diego was.

Diego with his foster Shelby
Diego with his foster, Shelby.
Diego looking happy
Diego is looking much better after more time in his foster home.

“He’s filled with so much love and joy,” she said. “No matter what happened to him in the past, if he was abused or abandoned or whatever, he has so much love for people, and I don’t how.”

“He’s a snuggler and a kisser and was so easy to be with,” Anderson continued. “He just wanted to be loved and offers lots of love in return.”

Anderson and her husband have been RSR fosters for a few years. They like to take the “tougher” cases and have developed a good relationship with RSR intake coordinator Meaghan Dubbs.

“I hadn’t even seen a photo of Diego when I was asked by Meaghan if we would be interested in fostering him,” Anderson said. “Meaghan contacted me because she knew we would be a really good fit for him.”

“I was told, before we got him, that he didn’t have a lot of energy because he was healing,” Anderson continued. “But what a surprise. He had tons of energy, and that also showed us that he was healing well. Depending on his energy level, we called him Spicy Diego or even Diablo.”

“Fostering is such an amazing experience,” Anderson said. “Dogs like Diego show us what patience, love, and caring can do. No matter what they have been through, and Diego had just been through the wringer, their transformations are amazing, and they’re such an inspiration.”

Anderson also admitted she was almost a foster failure with Diego; meaning, she debated keeping him and adopting him herself.

“You get so attached to every animal, and you always think that you should keep the one you’re looking after,” she said. “But then you receive the perfect adoption application from a wonderful family, and you just know they belong together.”

However, Anderson said the handoff is still emotional and hard. That handoff occurred in early January. His adopters live in the Twin Cities area and wish to defer the spotlight to Diego.

In an interview, the adopter said he was attracted to Diego because he was the same size (class) as their current dog, Frank, and because he wasn’t a puppy. Plus, Diego looked to recover well.

“Diego was the right size and was family healthy,” the adopter said. “I had an elder dachshund who died about a year ago, and it was time to get another dog.”

He added that Diego is good for Frank, too, and said Frank, also adopted as a rescue, is now more active and has been playing a lot more. He said the two dogs live and play very well together.

Diego and Frank cuddling
Diego and Frank cuddling.
More Diego and Frank snuggles
More Diego and Frank snuggles.

Diego likes the dog park and is getting more confident with every visit, the adopter noted. Initially, Diego was afraid of the other dogs at the park, but with Frank sticking up for him and by his side, Diego’s confidence has grown, and now, with his tail up high like a flag, he runs and plays “like mad” at the park.

His adopter reported that Diego is settling in well. He continues to heal nicely, and his coat keeps coming in thicker and softer. He added that when Diego first arrived at their house, he was a bit afraid of outside noises. But as he’s become more comfortable in their home, he now lets people outside know that this is “his house and to back off.”

“He’ll be fine here,” the adopter happily concluded.

The dog who arrived in Minnesota, described as “bones covered in scabs,” is now living the life every dog should have. He is in a wonderful, loving home and is being cared for as a member of the family.

Diego’s story and so many others like it are a true testament to animal advocates, rescue organizations, the countless caring volunteers across the rescue network, the wonderful fosters, and the loving adopters who take them in as their own.

Diego in the snow
Diego’s reaction after finding out he was getting adopted.
Dogs in a cage

The Dog Meat Trade

Editor’s Note: This is a graphic and disturbing article, but we feel the detail is important to convey the article’s context. This act, while horrific, does not define a whole group of people. Please keep in mind that change takes patience, understanding, and respect. Positive animal welfare reforms are happening.

By Brent Honcharenko

Rescuing dogs and cats from unfortunate situations is the goal for organizations like Ruff Start Rescue (RSR). Many dogs and cats are rescued from poor conditions, abusive environments, abandonment, and voluntary surrenders. But rescuing dogs and cats from the meat trade industry in eastern Asia is a different avenue completely.

According to Jenni Smith, intake coordinator at RSR, over two million dogs are consumed annually in South Korea. But that’s just a fraction of the dogs and cats that are butchered for human consumption throughout Asia. There are no known numbers from North Korea, and it’s estimated that 10-20 million dogs and cats are consumed in China and five million in Vietnam. Indonesia is also believed to have dog and cat meat trade operations.

However, South Korea is the only country where it is still legal to operate dog meat farms. There are 17,000 known dog meat farming operations in South Korea. But the legality of those operations falls in what many consider a gray area. For example, it is illegal in South Korea to kill dogs for their meat, but it is not illegal to consume dog meat because, by law, dogs are considered “livestock.” Therefore, they can be raised on farms as such.

Additionally, the South Korean government has been inconsistent about shutting these operations down, even knowing the end result of the farm’s “livestock.” Typically, the farm operations are only shuttered if the owner doesn’t have the proper, updated paperwork or permits.

Smith and RSR work directly with three different rescue groups in South Korea. She said last year RSR brought 30 dogs through the organization from South Korea. However, she was quick to add that the COVID-19 pandemic really brought this rescue process to a halt, but it is starting to resume operations, and there was just another transport in the past couple of weeks.

The dogs, after being rescued, having passed all of the strict guidelines, and after being cleared by U.S. government organizations like the USDA and FDA, can then be transported out of South Korea. From South Korea, they are flown to Chicago. From Chicago, RSR works with an organization called Pilots N Paws (PNP), a nonprofit group of volunteer pilots who fly rescued dogs to their designated locations. When PNP transport is not available, RSR coordinates with associates in Chicago to meet in central Wisconsin for hand-off vehicle transports to Minnesota.

Although the practice of consuming dog and cat meat is trending downward, it is still a tedious process for the animal advocates in South Korea to rescue these dogs and cats and get them to safe locations like RSR.

Dog meat trade survivors in cage
A group of dog meat trade survivors in a typical farm setup.
Dog meat trade food
An example of what dog meat trade dogs are fed.

“The South Korean rescue operations sometimes meet opposition and are up against claims that the dogs they are rescuing are sick. But the USDA permitting process is very strong,” Smith said. “And although there might be a misconception that dogs rescued from the meat trade and brought to the U.S. are diseased, that’s just not true. When these dogs clear all of the forms and permits required and pass U.S. government regulations, they’re perfectly healthy.”

“It’s a fear tactic. Some of the healthiest dogs that come through (RSR) and other rescue organizations are those from South Korea,” Molly Nemec added. Nemec is an animal advocate and a national leader in rescuing dogs and cats from the South Korean dog meat trade (DMT) industry.

Although Americans, and most of the world, have a clear objection to the practice of consuming dog or cat meat, it is important to at least understand this is a centuries-old tradition in South Korea, and changing this practice will take time. Ruff Start Rescue is one organization that has become actively involved in that initiative.

According to the Humane Society International, there is increased vocal opposition to the DMT due to the cruelty and torture of the animals involved and the human health conditions attributed to consuming DMT meat.

Nemec said many activists and rescue groups are working hard in South Korea and throughout Asia to end this practice. Most of the dogs rescued are from DMT farms shut down by the South Korean government. But even so, she said it’s very common for the animal advocacy groups to run into “culture,” “tradition,” or “hunger and survival” as excuses to continue the practice.

Nemec also said hearing claims that the meat is used to help cure hunger has little validity, as South Korea has one of the richest economies in the world (South Korea is ranked 11th in the world in Gross Domestic Product (GDP); the monetary market value of all goods and services produced in the country.).

Dog meat trade survivor
A dog meat trade survivor walks outside.

“South Korea is a wealthy nation,” Nemic said. “Dogs and cats do not have to be eaten for survival. And, it’s important to remember that cats are involved in the DMT, too.”

Nemec and Smith both commented that, for the most part, it is an aging male population in South Korea who keep this practice alive. The average DMT farmer is male and is currently in his 60’s or 70’s. So why do they do this? It’s apparently believed this meat has “mystical” or “healing” power to enhance their bodies. But it goes beyond that, as it’s also believed the meat’s power is intensified through torture.

“Eating an animal is different than torturing an animal,” Smith interjected. “It’s (somehow) believed the more the animal is tortured before it is finally killed and butchered, the more adrenaline it produces in its body, which then somehow has a positive effect on the human who consumes it.”

“This is not magical meat,” Nemec emphasized. “This is purely an act of ignorance, superstition, and cruelty.”

Nemec offered another scenario, “They claim most dog meat is consumed in June, July, and August because the meat cools their body during the hot summer months. But they eat just as much in the winter months, saying it warms them. They contradict their own superstitions while trying to justify it.”

Nemec first learned of the DMT in late 2015/early 2016 and jumped right in to do anything she could to help. She works with many organizations and individuals throughout the U.S. and worldwide. Nemec said she began working with RSR in 2017.

“It’s important to tell the background of where these animals come from,” Nemec said. “Seeing the final happy ending of a rescue initiative is great, but it doesn’t solve anything. People have to hear the truth to help make a change. The truth is, it’s graphic, it’s cruel, it’s disgusting, and it’s horrifying. Sugarcoating the reality of these DMT operations won’t help. It’s the worst of the worst.”

Nemec went on to explain some of the horrifying videos she’s seen of dogs hung and beaten to death, dogs and cats skinned alive, boiled alive, or burned alive before they’re finally butchered for consumption.

“We’re often told it’s their culture, and we can’t change their culture,” Nemec added. “Torture is not cultural. Hanging, beating, skinning, or boiling a dog or cat alive is not right in anyone’s culture. Wrong is wrong.”

“As repulsive as it is to us here in America to even imagine eating a dog or a cat, it is important to remember that is exactly what we’re doing with pigs, chickens, and beef here,” Nemec, who also devotes her time to a local farm sanctuary, said. “So when the finger is pointed at them, they’re actually pointing the finger right back as us.”

“The work we’re doing is just a drop in the bucket,” Nemec said. “People often ask what they can do to help? You can donate, yes, but we can’t really help until we look at ourselves and our own practices regarding livestock. Otherwise, we’re just being hypocritical and spinning our wheels.”

Dog meat trade survivor resting
A dog meat trade survivor rests in their kennel.
Pilots n Paws pilot
A Pilots N Paws pilot poses by his plane with dog meat trade survivors.

“We can’t rescue our way out of this,” Nemec added. “It’s a great feeling to rescue and help dogs and cats, but we have to go much deeper to make a real change. It’s the power of ignorance vs. the power of education. We must continue to bring awareness and education to these causes.”

Thankfully it’s the younger generation in South Korea who is making the biggest difference, Nemec stated. She added that hopefully, in another generation or two, this practice should burn itself out for the most part. Nemec said it’s dying a slow death, and the trend of consuming dog and cat meat is steadily declining. But she’s not naïve to believe it will ever be completely extinguished.

Dog meat trade survivor with volunteer
A dog meat trade survivor receives a kiss from a Ruff Start volunteer.

Nemec said many rescue groups and advocates in the U.S. have embraced the DMT rescue cause. She said it started more aggressively on the west coast, and some east coast rescue organizations began getting involved. But, she added, organizations like RSR in Minneapolis and organizations in Denver were right in the mix.

“Rescue has no borders, and compassion has no limits,” Nemec concluded. “Animals have no voice. So everyone will continue to hear mine.”



By Brent Honcharenko

Found wandering the streets in Houston, Texas, he was skittish, reserved, and very cautious of those around him, especially men. His behavior suggested he may have experienced abuse in his past.

After being rescued, he spent time with two different fosters in Texas while waiting for his scheduled transport to Minnesota. Just hours before he was to be loaded and head north, he got loose, ran, and missed the trip. He was eventually found and then remained with his foster until the next transport.

Tucker photoshoot outside

When he finally got to Minnesota, he arrived with two leashes, a harness, and a GPS attached to his collar. He had gained (and earned) a quick reputation of being a “runner.”

He was welcomed in Minnesota by a temporary foster, where he soon lived up to his reputation; he got loose and ran again. This time he was missing for five days before being located.

Meet Tucker (formerly known as Tuckar), the energetic, one-year-old pup who, despite his elusive behavior, won the hearts of his fosters and his adopters.

Tucker finally ended up with Ruff Start Rescue foster Crystal Polipnick, who got him on October 9. Polipnick and her husband knew he would take a lot of work and dedication, but they happily began the trust-building process.

Not only was Tucker a flight risk, Polipnick reported he was also on oral heartworm medication when they received him.

“The oral medication process acts much slower than injections,” Polipnick said. “But we couldn’t do the injections because he didn’t like his back area or back legs to be handled. We had to use the option that worked on his terms.”

Tucker cuddling with his toy in bed

Polipnick said although he was skittish and apprehensive of males, it was actually her husband who was the one who got him to take his treatments.

“Everything we did was done in a way to ensure his success,” Polpnick said. “We even worked with a professional trainer.”

When it came time to promote Tucker’s adoption, Polpnick said they knew there was still a lot of work to be done with him and that he’d need a home with a fenced-in yard and no other dogs.

Ali Peterson and her husband, James Babcock, found Tucker on the Ruff Start Rescue adoption site and were immediately attracted to him. Peterson said after they saw him, they kept going back to his pictures and bio. Shortly after, they submitted an adoption application.

“We received the application from Ali, and then she kept checking in. That said a lot about her and James,” Polpnick said.

Polipnick said they scheduled a meet-and-greet, and when they visited Peterson and Babcock, they brought Tucker into the house in his crate and with his leashes on.

“Surprisingly, it didn’t take him long to come out of his kennel,” Polpnick said. “We met for about an hour-and-a-half, and it went really well. We showed Ali and James all of Tucker’s leashes and his GPS, and it was encouraging that nothing we covered seemed to scare them off. They weren’t deterred at all.”

Polpnick knew that Peterson and Babcock would need to take it slow but also felt they would be a good fit for Tucker and proceeded with the adoption, which was finalized on Dec. 20.

Peterson said that she and Babcock both had dogs growing up and wanted to continue that tradition together, but first needed to provide the right environment.

“Once we moved, our goal was to get a dog,” Peterson said. “We found Tucker, and both adored him. We read his bio and knew that he might have come from an abusive past and needed a quiet home. We do have one adopted cat, but we knew we could provide the right place for him. We got him the weekend before Christmas.”

Peterson said they have continued the work that Polpnick and the other fosters began with Tucker.

Tucker and his fosters, Ali and James
Tucker laying down

“We’ve worked on everything with him,” she said. “We’ve made a lot of positive strides over the past several weeks. We know where we can and can’t touch him, and we’re still working on being able to pet him with two hands.”

“He likes to get on the couch with us,” she continued, “but he’s still pretty reserved and stays in his area where he can exit quickly. He’s not a cuddler.”

Peterson said Tucker has started playing with toys more and especially likes to play tug.

Regarding his apprehensiveness towards males, Peterson said Tucker is establishing trust with her husband and likes to sit behind him while he’s working.

Tucker playing with a Valentine's Day headband

“But when I’m on the floor doing my workouts, he’s all over me,” she added.

“He’s an oddball, but in a good way,” Peterson said. “He definitely is on his own track and is progressing well.”

“He’s very smart,” she added. “You can tell he’s been duped a few times in his past. That’s probably why he’s so cautious and why we still have to build trust.”

Peterson offered examples like, if he’s laying down and they come up behind him, he gets up immediately. She added that he doesn’t like people to be outside his field of vision and that they’re still working on car rides.

Ironically, however, Peterson said Tucker does pretty well around new people, and he gets jealous when they leave without him. She said he’s fully house-trained and eats and drinks really well.

She said Tucker is an entirely different dog outside than he is inside. While inside, he’s pretty mellow. He likes to play with his toys and the cat’s toys. He likes to hang out with them when they’re in the kitchen and living room. And he likes to spend time looking out the windows.

Peterson said he likes to go out but still has to have his combination of leashes. And, she added, since he’s on his heartworm medication, they’ve had to limit his time outside. That will change once he’s off his medication and the weather gets nicer.

After being found as a stray who may have run from an abusive situation, Tucker has found his forever home where he can be comfortable. His trust level will increase, and he’ll continue to learn that Peterson and Babcock have nothing but love and happiness to offer him.

Tucker’s fate may have been completely different if not for the wonderful work of the fosters who never gave up on him, even after he did run from them. Tucker is in a wonderful, loving environment with Ali and James, who have made him part of their family.

Tucker and James

Saving Animals on the Border

In Laredo, Texas, a rural animal shelter holds the fate of hundreds of animals every day.

On the USA/Mexico border, a roof covers concrete kennel walls while open-air flows through the walkways. Outdoor dog houses offer a barrier to the elements, but when the kennels are packed with multiple dogs, not all can fit. As soon as animals enter this facility, the clock starts ticking. Please consider helping Ruff Start help them by donating today – any amount makes a difference!

Volunteers and staff work tirelessly to care for the 250+ animals in their care, but there is only so much time and space to do right by them. Only 26% of dogs leave this facility alive. We want to make this clear – this shelter isn’t the enemy. Lack of resources, animal welfare education, and mass spay/neuter campaigns keep this shelter flowing with animals day in and day out. As a municipal facility, they can’t turn any animal away.

The Southern city never thought to prepare for the winter weather that we see in the midwest. Pipes burst, clean water became inaccessible, bills piled up, and beloved companion animals were euthanized at even higher rates. They could barely thaw out the frozen water bowls when new animals entered the shelter even faster than before.

During the storm, kind citizens brought dogs and cats off the streets so they wouldn’t freeze to death. After the storm subsided and new problems arose, those animals had nowhere to go. Belonging to no one, they could either go back on the streets or into a shelter.

Our intake team at Ruff Start Rescue tags as many dogs in Laredo and Houston as we can. Tagging is essentially us saying, “Hey, we’ll take this dog. Please take them off the euthanasia list.” This is not a task for the faint of heart as we see the faces of dogs we can’t say ‘yes’ to. As a foster-based rescue, we can only save as many animals as we have foster homes.  You can find out more about becoming a Ruff Start foster on our website.

Keira is arriving Saturday, 3/6.
Keelan is arriving Saturday, 3/6.
Fiona is arriving Saturday, 3/6.
Harlequin is arriving Saturday, 3/6.

We’ve committed to one transport from Laredo every month, but with everything that’s been going on, we took on this upcoming emergency transport to help create space and save more animals in need. This Saturday, 29 Laredo pups are coming up to Minnesota. Watch them arrive LIVE on our Facebook page, late Saturday morning. 

We recognize that we can’t do this alone. We rely on you, our animal welfare friends and advocates, to help us save these amazing dogs. If you’re in a position to give, please consider donating today – any amount does make a difference. Together we can do extraordinary things and save so many more lives.

How you can help animals in Laredo, Texas

We are so grateful for this partnership with Laredo Animal Care Services and can’t wait to see it grow. We hope you’ll see that they’re doing their very best to help the animals in their care. Ease their burden when you donate desperately needed supplies to Ruff Start Rescue by Friday, March 5. We’re sending as many supplies back as we can to the struggling shelter on March 6.

Here’s what they need:

  • Dog food (preferably Purina)
  • Metal food/water dishes
  • Metal water buckets
  • Towels
  • Blankets
  • Paper towels
  • Clorox wipes
  • Large garbage bags

Order items with ease from our Amazon wish list. Ruff Start Rescue will use any items not sent to Laredo. Email with any questions.

Keep shelter pets off the concrete floor when you donate Kuranda beds and outdoor dog houses. Those can be sent directly to them at:

Laredo Animal Care Services
5202 Maher Ave
Laredo, TX 78041

Other Ways to Help

Sign up to foster! We can only save as many animals as we have foster homes. Click here to learn more about our foster-to-adopt-program.

Buy Lone Star merchandise – all proceeds benefit the animals at Ruff Start Rescue, and there are only 8 days left to order!

Share this blog article and interact with our posts on social media.

Watch founder and executive director, Azure Davis, talk about how RSR is helping in Texas right now

Twin Cities Live Ruff Start Rescue Video
Foster dog being scratched under the chin

Helping Texas

Helping Texas after disastrous winter weather

Since news broke of the terrible conditions in Texas, Ruff Start has been working behind the scenes, arranging FIVE Texas transports to save 150+ dogs over the next 30 days.

We’ve spent the past ten years aiding states with the highest euthanasia rates of companion animals across the country through our Lone Star to North Star Rescue Relief program. Thousands of dogs and cats faced this fate before the unprecedented disaster millions of Texans recently endured. Weather conditions became unsurvivable. People, pets, and wildlife froze to death – an absolute tragedy.

Here’s how you can help.

Rescuing animals has and always will be a team effort. We hope we can count on you, our amazing animal welfare community, to help us help them. Please consider donating today so we can get animal supplies where they’re needed most, offset unbudgeted transport costs, and cover vetting expenses for dogs and puppies joining us in the coming days.

Any amount helps these at-risk animals in need!

You can send supplies directly to RSR animals in Texas through our Amazon wish list.

We can only save as many animals as we have foster homes.

You can support this cause when you buy Lone Star merchandise.

Watch news segments on RSR’s efforts in Texas

Twin Cities Live Ruff Start Rescue Video
Ruff Start Rescue