Since our inception, we’ve strongly believed that a home is many pets’ ideal environment whether they have a forever family or not. As such, foster homes are absolutely critical to the success of our rescue mission – fosters house our adoptable animals and enable us to continue our lifesaving efforts!

Becoming a foster is actually a fairly easy process, but it can be a bit intimidating. Learn more about our foster program as well as what is expected of our foster families below, or click the button to get signed up today.

What to Expect

Fosters are a phenomenal group of animal advocates who open their hearts and homes to animals in need, providing rescue animals care and love until they are adopted. Ruff Start’s mission is furthered by the work of our foster families and we are always looking for more fosters to help us save the lives of animals in need! As a foster, you can expect…

  • … to choose your foster animal from any criteria you set for yourself. As a rule, all of Ruff Start’s foster families choose the animal(s) they want to foster, as well as the frequency in which they foster at all. You know what you are capable of handling given your schedule, background, skillsets, home environment, etc.
  • … to pay only in the time you spend with your foster pet. All veterinary expenses the animal incurs during its time in rescue are paid for by Ruff Start and supplies, like food, crates, bowls, litter boxes, toys, etc., are all provided by our organization, as well. We do ask that foster families transport their foster animal to and from significant events, like veterinary visits and meet and greets with potential adopters. The rescue does not reimburse for mileage, but this is considered tax deductible.
  • … to love your foster animal the way you’d love your own animal. Arguably, the most important thing a foster provides a Ruff Starter during their time in rescue is a loving home environment. We do ask foster families to love and care for their foster animal as if they were their own animal. As such, fosters are required to provide adequate social interaction, exercise, play, and basic care to their foster animals until adoption.
  • … to be highly involved in the adoption process. Ruff Start foster families work closely with our Adoption Application Managers to ensure potential adoptive families are good fits for their foster animals. Foster families also navigate nearly all conversations with potential adopters, meaning you get to speak person-to-person with adoptive families. After all, our fosters know their animals better than anyone!
  • … to meet great people who will help you along on your own lifesaving mission. Our foster families are a tight-knit group who are wonderful at providing insight to you along every single part of your foster journey. Ruff Start’s support system is vast and available to you at your fingertips, whenever you need advice, a shoulder, or reassurance!

Paws to Consider...

Standard Foster Family Criteria

As a general rule, all Ruff Start Rescue fosters must:

  • Be 18 years of age or older.
  • Have all other pets in the home spayed/neutered and up to date on standard veterinary care, including rabies and distemper vaccinations, unless deemed medically unnecessary by a licensed veterinarian.
  • Keep all companion animals, including fosters and resident animals, indoors, unless in a specialized circumstance (i.e. owned barn cats).
  • Understand that patience is key, as there is no set timeline for an animal to find its forever home.
  • Be willing to work with their foster pet(s) in a patient, loving, and consistent way, especially those that come from stressful or traumatic backgrounds.
  • Always be cautious when bringing foster animals outdoors, even in fenced in yards, or to new locations.
  • Provide adequate exercise and basic care, including consistent feeding, watering, medication on a schedule, etc.

If you would like to foster but do not meet the above criteria, don’t be afraid to reach out! Our organization is very understanding and would love to discuss your specific circumstance further. Email us at if you would like to chat with one of our Foster Coordinators.

Fostering FAQ

What do I need to be a foster?

Everything you physically need to care for your foster, like crates, food, bowls, toys, veterinary care, and more, will be provided by the rescue. We ask that you personally provide transportation to any necessary veterinary visits or events, as well as love, time, and patience while your foster pet lives in your home.

What will be expected from me as a foster?

The most important part of your job as a foster will be to help introduce your foster animal to a home environment by giving him/her some basic training, socialization, and lots of love. You will also be expected to arrange and provide transportation to and from any of your foster animal’s necessary veterinary visits, as decided by your foster manager. These visits may be routine or emergent. Help with transportation may be provided after coordinating with your foster manager.

You will be responsible for writing a biography for providing good photos of your foster animal to use on their adoption profile. These items are extremely important in getting people excited to meet and potentially adopt your foster!

You will also be required to help with the adoption process. For more information on what this process looks like, please view the “What role does a foster play in the adoption process?” FAQ toggle.

What role does a foster play in the adoption process?

When a potential adopter submits an adoption application for your foster animal, one of the rescue’s Adoption Application Managers will send you the applicant’s information via email. You are expected to review the adoption application and contact the applicant via email, phone, or virtual visit to decide if they are a good fit for your foster animal.

As a foster, it is your job to be an advocate for your foster animal. Please go over your animal’s behaviors, habits, routine, and quirks – the good, the bad, and the ugly! Applicants rely nearly exclusively on the information you provide to determine if the animal they are interested in is actually a good fit for their family dynamic.

If it is decided that the animal in question may be a good fit, a meet and greet should be arranged. This meeting can be performed at a location of mutual choosing, including your home, the applicant’s home, or a neutral location such as a public park or pet store. It is up to you to determine a location for a meet and greet that your animal is comfortable with. We do ask that all potential family members in the applicant’s home are present for the meet and greet, including dogs (cats and critters are excluded).

Where do foster animals come from?

The animals Ruff Start takes into rescue come from many locations, including:

  • Local impounds like Minneapolis Animal Care and Control (MACC), St. Paul Animal Control (SPAC), Princeton Animal Clinic, Pets Under Police Security in Maple Grove (PUPS), etc.
  • Humane societies like Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley
  • Owners throughout the state of Minnesota who surrender their animals for reasons like moving, financial distress, or change in family situation
  • Found strays who have been put on an appropriate “stray hold” with no owner found
  • Out of state partner impounds or animal controls in southern states like Texas, who are run rampant with pet overpopulation
  • Reservations in South Dakota

Because of their wide variety of origin, sometimes it is difficult for our intake representatives to know key details about foster animals. We will do our best to communicate their backgrounds and specific needs to you, allowing you to choose which animals you feel may be a good fit in your home.

What type of veterinary care do foster animals receive?

All Ruff Start fosters receive the following care:

  • Age-appropriate core vaccinations like distemper and rabies
  • Alteration surgery (spay/neuter)
  • Microchip implantation
  • Deworming
  • Preventative bloodwork (heartworm testing for dogs and puppies over nine months of age; FeLV/FIV testing for cats and kittens)
  • Flea/tick preventative

Case-by-case basis care is also provided, including:

  • Routine bloodwork
  • Symptomatic care for sickness, like upper respiratory and urinary tract infections, kennel cough, and parvo
  • Heartworm treatment
  • Fecal examinations
  • Specialty surgical procedures, including but not limited to dental cleanings and extractions, lump removals, amputations, and exploratories

All care is provided by Ruff Start Rescue and its partner veterinary facilities; no expense (beyond travel expenses) fall upon foster families.

Do I get to choose which animals I foster?

Yes! As a foster family, it is up to you to decide which animal(s) you bring into your home.

How long will it take for my foster animal to find its forever home?

As a foster, it is up to you to provide care for your foster animal until it finds its foster home. The amount of time a foster animal may spend in rescue varies, but most animals reside in foster homes anywhere from one week to three months. In rare cases, animals may spend more than half a year with their foster families.

Can I still foster if I plan to go on vacation/am gone for the weekend?

Absolutely! We have many foster homes that would be willing to watch your animal for you while you are away. We just request ample notice to ensure we can match your foster animal up with a good fitting home while you are gone.

Can I apply to foster even if I can only foster for short periods of time?

Yes! We have many foster families who are only interested or able to temporarily foster animals whose primary fosters are gone for the weekend or experiencing similar circumstances. Please note this in your foster application so we can ensure you get matched up with the appropriate animals after you are approved.

Am I putting my resident animals at risk by fostering?

Because our animals come from a multitude of places, they may have unknown histories – making it possible they are not medically up-to-date. Because of this, we ask that you keep all foster animals away from resident pets until they have had the opportunity to be checked over by the Ruff Start veterinary staff or an approved veterinary clinic. These visits are coordinated by either the Ruff Start intake team (for example, during a large transportation) or your foster manager.

To best ensure your resident animals’ safety, please be certain they are up-to-date on their vaccinations and flea/tick preventatives. It is required that all Ruff Start foster families’ resident animals have distemper and rabies vaccines. The rescue also recommends resident animals have bordetella (dogs) and feline leukemia (cats) vaccinations as these are conditions that are easily transmitted between animals.

Can I adopt my foster animal?

Absolutely, as long as we aren’t currently processing multiple adoption applications for your foster animal!

Ready to save lives?

Now accepting foster applications.

The more fosters we have, the more animals we can save. If you’re ready to join us in our lifesaving journey, fill out a foster application today.

Ruff Start Rescue