Among animal care facilities in Sacramento County, Itsie Bitsie Rescue Inc. could be described as the neonatal unit.
Started about 15 years ago by a high school student as a community service project, it now operates as a nonprofit organization with a network of volunteers dedicated to caring for newborn animals – primarily kittens and puppies – until they are weaned, then finding them permanent homes.
Animal shelters typically don’t have enough staff members to provide the necessary bottle feeding for motherless animals less than 5 weeks old, said Lori Whitney, the organization’ public affairs and adoption coordinator.
“We were founded specifically for that purpose,” she said.
The organization works with the Sacramento SPCA, Sacramento County’s Bradshaw Animal Shelter and Sacramento’s Front Street Animal Shelter, as well as area veterinarians, to aid baby animals who, because of the intensive care they require, might otherwise be euthanized, Whitney said.
The mainstay of the organization is Pam Dumas, whose daughter, Danielle, launched the effort as a high school community service project. Pam Dumas, a nurse, continued the work and has been joined over the years by others. Some, like Whitney, became involved after bringing animals to Dumas. The organization now has a network of about 30 volunteers.
Itsie Bitsie Rescue finds adoptive homes for approximately 500 kittens a year and about 20 puppies, Whitney said. It also has handled rabbits, goats, a couple of pot-bellied pigs and a parrot.
It seeks volunteers with experience bottle-feeding animals. They work with one another to provide the weeks of around-the-clock care needed to make sure the animals survive infancy.
Volunteers care for the animals in their homes until they are weaned. After the animals are spayed or neutered, they are housed for couple of days in the “Kitty Cottage,” a small shed at Dumas’ Citrus Heights home that serves as a makeshift shelter until they are put up for adoption.
Organization members have asked Book of Dreams readers to help purchase a shed-type building and outfit it with kennels to house animals before they are adopted. Having the second building, Whitney said, would provide improved quarters and allow ill animals to be housed separately. Additional monies would also help cover the cost of formula and special food for kittens.
Whitney said the group has partnered with the county animal shelter the past two years to provide training for members of the public interested in fostering shelter animals. At the end of the training, all have an opportunity to bottle feed a kitten. The goal, Whitney said, is to train shelter volunteers to care for unweaned animals “so they have more options, not just us.”
After they are weaned, at 8 to 10 weeks old, the animals are spayed or neutered and vaccinated, then put up for adoption. Itsie Bitsie Rescue holds weekend adoption events at the PetSmart store on Fairway Drive in Roseville.
Spring used to be the busy season, but that changed during the recession, when many animals were abandoned by people who lost their own homes, or who couldn’t afford to feed and care for their pets. Now, Whitney said, the organization sees litters of kittens year-round, leaving volunteers little down time. At certain times of the year, volunteers may be caring for as many as 100 kittens.
Itsie Bitsie Rescue works primarily with shelters and veterinarians that receive abandoned animals. It does not accept animals from pet owners who failed to have an animal spayed or neutered and are looking to hand off a litter of kittens or puppies.
“We are not a birth control alternative,” Whitney said.
Funding for the organization comes from the adoption fees it charges and donations. The fee for kittens is typically $80 and the fee for puppies starts at $125, Whitney said. They may be higher if, for example, an animal has required surgery for an injury.
Needed: Funds to help purchase a shed-type building and outfit it with kennels to house animals before they are adopted.
All Book of Dreams donations are tax-deductible, and none of the money received will be used for administrative costs.