Ruff Start Rangers, a program within the Education Department, aims to educate youth through service and activities in hopes the future of animal welfare sees fewer homeless pets and more responsible pet owners than in the past. As a Ranger, you will join a community of like-minded youth to grow your knowledge of animal health and wellness, and begin a positive, lifelong relationship with animals.

The program allows Rangers to go at their own pace. Completing activities and earning pins, badges, and ranks will take time to help Rangers grow their knowledge of animal welfare over the course of years.

Ruff Start Rangers is for anyone entering grades K-12. As a family-oriented program, we also welcome any siblings to work through the program together.


The Ruff Start Rangers Program consists of three ranks for participants to complete. The first rank,First-Year Ranger, covers the basic information required to become a competent Ranger. The second rank, Junior Ranger, involves activities and information that deepen the understanding of humane care for companion animals. The third and final rank, Senior Ranger, further expands on animal welfare knowledge and offers opportunities to influence the community at large.

Upon completing all three ranks, participants will have successfully finished the Ruff Start Rangers Program. The next step in your animal welfare journey is to become an official volunteer with Ruff Start Rescue. Participants who are at least 16 years old may obtain parent/guardian permission to start volunteering with Ruff Start Rescue.

Activities and Pins

To earn pins as a Ranger, you must first study the relevant information in your Rangers Guide. Then you must complete various activities listed under that pin in your Rangers Activity Packet, such as solving puzzles, taking care of your pet, and organizing fundraisers.

By completing activities, you earn points towards that specific pin. Once you have earned enough points for your current rank, you must submit your tracking sheets to the Rangers Committee. Then you will receive your pins either in the mail or you may pick them up at Ruff Start Rescue in Princeton. You may work on multiple pins concurrently.


By dedicating time and effort to complete activities and earn pins, Rangers embark on a journey to also earn merit badges in three main areas of animal welfare: Health and Wellness, Enrichment, and Service. When all pins within a badge are achieved, the Ranger earns their rank badge (First-Year, Junior, or Senior Ranger) and may advance to the next rank for that badge. Completing activities to earn pins and badges signifies the Ranger’s progress in learning about the different facets of animal welfare.

Health and Wellness

Health and Wellness is Ruff Start Rangers’ first area of animal welfare. This badge focuses on the overall well-being of animals. As a Ranger working towards your Health and Wellness badge, you will complete activities to earn pins in categories such as veterinary medicine, nutrition, and hygiene to enhance your knowledge of animal care.


Enrichment is Ruff Start Rangers’ second area of animal welfare. This badge focuses on providing pets with activities that encourage them to use their mind, body, and senses to explore and problem solve, keeping them busy, physically fit, and out of trouble. As a Ranger working towards your Enrichment badge, you will complete activities with a focus on crafts, games, and training, to earn pins in categories such as nutritional, social, and physical enrichment to improve the lives of animals.


Service is Ruff Start Rangers’ third area of animal welfare. This badge focuses on giving back to others. As a Ranger working towards your Service badge, you will complete activities to earn pins in categories such as fundraising, helping wild animals, and advocacy to spread awareness of animal welfare in your community.

Ready to get started?


Do you have an age requirement for Ruff Start Rangers?

The Rangers program is designed with students in grades K-8 in mind, but we do not have a formal age requirement and children of any age are welcome to register!

Do I need to have a resident pet or foster pet in order to participate?

No! Having a resident or foster pet is not a requirement to participate. However, if you do not have a pet, some activities may require you to work with the pet of someone you know, like a family member or friend.

What is the time commitment?

Ruff Start Rangers is a self-paced program, so you can move through the program as fast or slow as your schedule allows! There is no set weekly or monthly time commitment.

Once I complete a pin, how do I submit the documentation?

Depending on the pin, there may be different methods of submission, which will be listed in your booklet. After you submit your documentation, we will mail your pins to you. If you need any assistance, please email

Ruff Start Rescue