It’s not too often you find your life’s passion while in your teens, but that’s just what happened to Azure Davis of Princeton.READ MORE: Richfield H.S. Cancels Classes Friday 'Out Of Caution' After Social Media Threat
She started bringing animals home when she was 16.
“My parents weren’t happy with it,” Davis said.
She volunteered for a Golden Retriever rescue organization, which was the only group of its kind in her city at the time.
“When I looked into rescue stuff in the Princeton area, there really was nothing. There were no resources for anyone,” Davis said.
But she found ways to help where she could, and started building a reputation.
“The people over the years, growing up in Princeton, kind of got to know me as ‘the animal girl’ (laughs), so they would call me to re-home their cat or dog, or they called it stray animals, and I was just good with networking, and so I would try to help people find homes.”
By age 21, Davis was fostering with a cat rescue group, but an itch she was feeling for some time just needed to be scratched.
“I had to make a big decision. Can I actually start a rescue and start a non-profit by myself?” she said. “I was 23 at the time and I was in college full time, and I was fortunate enough to do it because I had moved home with my parents for a couple years so I was able to save the money and not have as much expenses, so it kind of went from there.”
Ruff Start works to place cats, dogs and critters — including gerbils, rabbits, ferrets and hamsters — in loving homes. Davis says about 61 percent of their rescues are dogs, about 31 are cats and about 1 percent is the critters.
This rescue, however, does not have a physical shelter for the animals.
Davis says a home environment is the best location for animals, instead of in kennels or shelters. There are currently about 200 foster homes in central Minnesota that help take in stray, surrendered, abandoned and neglected animals.
She says as of last month, Ruff Start has saved about 2,500 animals. At any given time, there are about 220 animals the organization is working to rescue. And there are about 500 volunteers that help.READ MORE: Next Weather: It's A Top 10 Weather Day Friday
Without any big corporate sponsors or guaranteed grants, Ruff Start relies donations — with reoccurring donors making up about 40 percent of their total donations.
The biggest cost for Ruff Start is, without a doubt, veterinarian costs.
“With everything that goes into it, the basic vetting alone for dogs usually ends up costing about $250,” Davis said. “We have to buy supplies or have special medication or special diet food.”
In 2014, Ruff Start spent $185,000 on vetting expenses alone.
“That’s definitely one area where we get hit hard,” she said.
Supplies such as dog food, kennels and blankets are typically donated.
If you would like to make a donation to help Ruff Start Rescue, sponsor an animal or become a volunteer, click here.
Ruff Start will be holding their 3rd annual Wellness Clinic in Zimmerman on Saturday, April 25.
Dogs can receive discounted vaccinations for distemper, bordetella and Lyme disease, as well as low-cost heartworm and 4dx tests.
Cats can get discounted distemper and feline leukemia vaccines, and both cats and dogs can get discounted micro-chips and nail trims.
Their partner, Northwoods Animals Hospital, will also provide low-cost rabies vaccinations.
The clinic will be at the Zimmerman Civic Building from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Click here for more information.
WCCO has already done several stories that featured Ruff Start Rescue. Click here to check them out!
~ Stephen SwansonMORE NEWS: 'A Person Of Genius': Ohio Exhibits Honor 'Peanuts' Creator, Charles Schulz, On 100th