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Group is here to rescue animals off to a Ruff Start - MessAge Media: Community

Group is here to rescue animals off to a Ruff Start

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Posted: Saturday, May 3, 2014 6:00 am

Ruff Start Rescue now has active group in Aitkin, working to spread the word'

Ruff Start Rescue strives to end pet overpopulation and safely place all unwanted animals in loving homes. The organization now has an active group of volunteers working in the Aitkin area. A nonprofit 501(c)(3), Ruff Start Rescue is a no-kill animal rescue, founded in Princeton with foster homes throughout Minnesota, composed solely of volunteers who love animals.

They work to rescue stray, neglected, abandoned and surrendered dogs and cats, arrange care for them in foster homes and place them in new forever homes. They also educate the community about the importance of animal rescue, including spaying/neutering to reduce unwanted litters who are ultimately euthanized. They rescue animals from high-kill facilities, rehabilitate the sick, love the unsocialized pets and maintain a 100 percent spay/neuter program. Local volunteer, Annette Zilverberg-Russell of Aitkin, says a strong social networking presence, including Facebook, is just one of the ways the group spreads the word.

“In four years we’ve adopted out around 2,000 cats, dogs and other small animals and we spent $127,655 in vet bills alone in 2013,”  a regional spokesperson said about the group, started in Princeton by Azure Davis. “This group could not survive without all of our wonderful volunteers who spend countless hours devoting time to save lives. Most volunteers work full time jobs, have children, their own animals and  very busy lives … We are very lucky to have so many volunteers and foster homes in the Aitkin area.”

Zilverberg and her husband, Ted Russell, have fostered animals through the program while working to build the local program. They work together to publicize the program, set  events, recruit more volunteers and get young people involved. Volunteers who’ve joined the effort from the Aitkin area include Nikky Laird, Jessy McShane and Scooby and Ron Harmon from Aitkin Lanes.

Zilverberg-Russell said Scooby Harmon started the local group and got her involved. Scooby has fostered more than 40 animals and Harmons have been a “huge asset” to the rescue, networking animals, raising money, gathering donations from the community and fostering numerous dogs, Annette said.  

The group has participated in parades in town with Ted serving as float driver. They’ve also had a booth at the Aitkin County Fair,  joined the Aitkin Area Chamber of Commerce, made presentations to students at Rippleside Elementary and at First Lutheran Church. They work with the local pound to network and find adoptive homes for dogs and they have partnered with Wild and Free in Garrison to provide veterinary services for fosters not able to travel to the metro area for routine treatment.   

Zilverberg-Russell said the group serves exclusively as a foster-care program through which pets live with fosters. When pets are adopted, new owners pay an adoption fee of $260 to $350 for dogs and $150 for cats. Funds help Ruff Start cover their costs for the spaying, neutering and updating of vaccinations they do for every animal.    

“A home environment is always the most desirable, and with the endless supply of animals needing homes, we just never have enough lined up. Sometimes the foster lasts a week, sometimes several months. A dog or cat will do far better adjusting when they are sitting by your chair or next to you while you are on the computer than stashed in a noisy kennel somewhere surrounded by sick and barking dogs,” Zilverberg-Russell said, concluding, “We want to be a voice for the animals … to raise awareness and make a difference in the world.”

Zilverberg-Russell said the community has been very supportive and volunteer foster owners have been invaluable since the program started locally about 18 months ago. Recently, a chip scanner and new beds for the Aitkin pound were funded by penny wars at Rippleside, and the Helping Hands group at the elementary school made and donated chew toys for dogs. Aitkin Police Officer Shawn Brown, who manages the pound, said Ruff Start volunteers have been “awesome.” He explained most adoptions from the pound are now done through Ruff Start. He also said the community, especially the grade school and high school, has been very supportive, donating considerable funding to help with animal rescue.

Ruff Start accepts all kinds of donations including dog food, dog treats, towels, blankets, kennels, collars, cat litter, dog and cat food, leashes, office supplies, gas cards and cash.

Anyone interested in donating, fostering, volunteering or adopting a pet should contact one of the volunteers or check out their website at www.ruffstartrescue.org.

Ruff Start rescues Cupid

A story unfolded around Valentine’s Day this year about a puppy named Cupid by his Ruff Start rescuers. When first found abandoned in a ditch, Cupid’s front legs were deformed and bowed inward in the shape of a heart. WCCO-TV followed the story that received huge viewer response and donations.

Now Cupid is back at his foster mom’s house and healing after undergoing surgery to correct deformed front paws. The hound puppy, Cupid, underwent surgery recently after being taken in about a month ago by Ruff Start Rescue.

His front paws bowed out, making it difficult for him to walk. Cupid’s surgery took place at the University of Minnesota. Veterinarians removed a small piece of his bone which they said will allow him to heal properly.

He’ll be wearing splints for a few more weeks, then he’ll undergo therapy before getting a permanent home.

The University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center covered a majority of the surgery bills, so the thousands of dollars donated to cover those costs will now be passed on to Ruff Start Rescue for other pets in need of medical attention.

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