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Business of the Year Nominee: Ruff Start Rescue

Business of the Year Nominee: Ruff Start Rescue

Business of the Year Nominee: Ruff Start Rescue

This award will recognize the organization(s) that have been in business for at least five years. The award will feature businesses that have exhibited outstanding initiative, leadership, and organizational skills which produce significant results that benefit the community. Such benefits may include excellence in customer service, conservation/energy-smart practices, a track record of growth including local investment and support of community organizations. To receive the award, the business must be an Elk River Area Chamber member in good standing. 


Nominator Statements:

“Ruff Start Rescue employs a team of over 20 individuals that utilize a system of 500+ fosters and 600+ volunteers. Together, Ruff Start has saved almost 12,000 animals to date since 2010 comparable to local animal shelters of the same size, but without the facility. They have a TNR program that alters community cats to prevent disease from spreading and pet overpopulation. Their annual wellness clinic provides low-cost veterinary services to pets of community members in need. They have upgraded their surgery suite at their Princeton, MN location to perform surgeries on site for animals in their care up to three times per week to save on costs and squeeze as much as they can out of each donor dollar ultimately to save more animals. They are always looking to grow and expand their lifesaving measures across Minnesota.” — Kayla Koscielniak

“Saving the lives of animals every day and a heavy focus on education and spay and neuter to decrease the number of homeless animals.” — Nicole Samborski


“Ruff Start Rescue has grown substantially in these past few years and has saved the lives of animals throughout central Minnesota. They also do community events including speaking to local youth about the importance of animal rescue, pet safety, and volunteering.” — Rachel Otten


“They have saved so many lives of at-risk animals in MN.” — Lindsay Hamilton


“Ruff Start Rescue helps find animals loving homes and is a fantastic organization to volunteer for. They save and find homes for so many homeless animals, and treat them for medical issues before sending them out for adoption.” — Vickie Tompt


“Ruff Start Rescue fills a huge need in Central Minnesota. There are not that many resources for pet owners, especially in rural areas, and Ruff Start provides education to those who seek it out. They also hold an annual Wellness Clinic every spring, offering low-cost vaccines, testing, nail trims, and microchipping. They also help control the feral cat population with their trap-neuter-return program, which improves the quality of life in the communities they serve. Finally, there is a place for nearly anyone who wants to volunteer with Ruff Start. They are extremely transparent about their work and do everything they can to fulfill their mission to rescue stray, abandoned, and neglected companion animals and find them loving forever homes.” — Pam Nelson 


“I have witnessed this rescue save thousands of animals throughout the years. Watching everyone work together with this rescue is truly amazing. The passion and love they have to save animals, not just from MN, is truly impressive. I am honored to be a part of this rescue. Not only do they save the lives of countless animals every year, but it’s also what they do for the community. If they have excess donations in dog food, they give to the food shelf so people can feed their pets. They don’t turn away someone who asks for help, if they need food, leashes, collars, etc. they will give to someone so they can keep their pet. They offer a Wellness clinic every year that gives discounted vetting to people so people who can’t afford vet care can keep their pets healthy and update.” — Kimberly L Venturella 

About Ruff Start Rescue

Ruff Start Rescue was formally created in 2010. Located in Princeton, MN, the rescue is central to Sherburne County, Isanti, and Mille Lacs. In the last 10 years, Ruff Start has grown to include 21 employees and over 700 volunteers. 


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What was the inspiration behind Ruff Start Rescue?

As a young child growing up on a large acreage, Azure Davis was a lover of animals. She would bring home all kinds of animals and try to find their owners, or re-home them when they were abandoned. Davis took out newspaper ads with her own money to help. As she got older, she realized that there were absolutely no resources in her community or even surrounding area to help. The closest was St. Cloud and further in toward the cities. She tried to apply for grants, but they are generally only applicable in the county that is offering the grant. After Davis finished college, she created Ruff Start Rescue to fulfill the huge need in her community and to gain some resources where there weren’t any available! 

Who does Ruff Start Rescue serve? 

People – they are really the customer. The rescue finds that they are helping people as much as they are animals. The animals serve as the catalyst to help the people looking for companionship, as well as give people a safe place to surrender their animals. The team really had no idea that helping animals would turn into helping people so much but they love seeing it go full circle.

Ruff Start Rescue’s Investment in Elk River and the Surrounding Area:

Ruff Start Rescue helps animals in Sherburne County, which in turn, helps the people in the community. They have an owner safe surrender program, which prevents animals from being abandoned and they visit local schools to educate students about adoption, care, and resources. Davis and her team have developed a curriculum and an education committee to provide this service. Ruff Start Rescue partners with CAER and donates food to families that have pets and may not be able to feed them. They are really working on the Trap/Neuter/Return funding and education for feral and barn cats especially. The TNR program has really taken off with the writing of grants and receiving funding as it is a huge need in the rural areas of Sherburne County. 

A Little-Known Fact About Ruff Start Rescue: 

The organization donates over 1000 pounds of food to CAER each year. They have also developed an education committee to bring education to youth and schools. In addition, the rescue offers a junior volunteer program and the annual Zimmerman Wellness clinic. The wellness clinic offers discounted vet and vaccine services, serving over 500 pets in 8 hours.

Looking to the Future:

Ruff Start Rescue is expanding and growing. The organization would like to move to the Elk River/Otsego/Rogers area where there is more support, resources, and volunteers available to meet the needs.

Ruff Start Rescue’s Involvement with the Chamber:

As a newer member, Ruff Start Rescue is trying to get more involved. They have recently hired a new director of operations and a new volunteer coordinator. As they become more comfortable in their positions, they have a goal to get more involved in the community and Chamber activities.

Ruff Start Rescue’s Involvement with the Community:

Davis has relationships and partnerships with businesses and nonprofits and is really focusing on growing those. She has a special talent of helping to grow sustainable nonprofits and continues to help others in her community to do so.

From all of us at ERACC, congratulations to Azure Davis and the team at Ruff Start Rescue on your nomination for Business of the Year. Good luck!

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