Courtesy The Humane Society of the United States

rphaned and injured wildlife in Illinois and around the country are sleeping better, thanks to a local recycled clothing shop and The Humane Society for the United States’ Coats for Critters campaign.

Buffalo Exchange, a clothing shop that prides itself of being environmentally conscious by selling used clothing, has two locations in the Chicago area; one in Lakeview, 2875 N. Broadway St. and one in Wicker Park, 1478 N. Milwaukee Ave. Buffalo Exchange stores across the country have teamed up with The HSUS for a national campaign called Coats for Critters. The stores collect real fur clothing like coats, shawls and hats for local licensed wildlife rehabilitation centers.

The used furs gathered from the Chicago Buffalo Exchange locations will be sent to a wildlife rehabilitator in Watson, Ill., who will use the furs to comfort orphaned and injured wildlife and nurse them back to health, said Andrea Cimino, campaign manager for The HSUS’ Wildlife Department. The campaign aims to help wildlife rehabilitators and to bring public awareness to the cruelty behind fur.

Cimino said people who might not feel comfortable wearing fur could donate to the program, which would help the wild animals.

“If we can get more people to stop wearing their fur and people put it to a good use, the less people wearing fur, the better, in our opinion,” Cimino said.

When wildlife rehabilitators receive the furs, they cut the furs into the bedding depending on the size of the animals’ enclosure used at their center, Cimino said. The donated furs are used as bedding so the animals can snuggle with them. Cimino said the furs reduce stress and soothes the orphaned animals, almost acting as a surrogate mother.

“When [orphaned animals] come in, they’re usually high-stressed because their mother has been killed,” Cimino said. The fur sort of comforts them and helps them to calm down.”

The ongoing campaign partnered up with Buffalo Exchange in 2006 after a HSUS member mentioned the program to an employee of one of Buffalo Exchange’s stores, Cimino said. The donations and collections started Nov. 1 at Buffalo Exchanges across the country and runs until Earth Day, April 22.

Since the program wrapped up last year, Buffalo Exchange has collected nearly 2,000 used furs, said Michelle Livingston, marketing director for Buffalo Exchange.

Cimino said most of the animals that recieve the furs are rabbits, squirrels, foxes and raccoons that have been orphaned.

Livingston said customers who specifically come in to donate coats should mention it’s for the Coats for Critters campaign. The used furs are a straight donation and their condition doesn’t matter.

Ryan Hurling, a college campaign coordinator for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said he likes that people are donating the coats to a cause instead of throwing them away.

“Often times we’ve found that especially when you donate a lot of these things to wildlife rehabilitation centers and areas where animals are in dire need of assistance, [the animals] can often find a lot of comfort in these warm furs to sleep on and rest on,” Hurling said.

Valerie Chalcraft, who holds a doctorate in experimental psychology, also runs an animal behaviorist consulting firm, Applied Animal Behavior, 731 W. 18th. St. She said putting furs in with orphaned animals isn’t unusual. Chalcraft said she has observed this with dogs or cats who have been taken away from their mothers.

“What we’ll do is, we’ll take a hot water bottle and wrap it in a towel, or in this case, a fur coat could work,” Chalcraft said. “We’lluse a wind up alarm clock that makes a ticking sound and that emulates the heartbeat. So between the heat of the hot water bottle and the ticking of the clock, which is like the heartbeat, and the fur, it could closely approximate a mother.”

She said the furs provide warmth and for animals that might be nursing. Fur is a better material for animals to dig their paws and claws into rather than a hard surface, a typical behavior baby animals do to their mother’s stomachs.

Chalcraft said one way to teach orphaned animals skills is to teach them how to play, and according to Cimino, some of the rehabilitating animals do just that with the furs.

“If the fur coats are used for toys to emulate play, it’s going to help the orphans develop hunting skills,” Chalcraft said. “So if they’re reintroduced in the wild, they’ll have some hunting skills.”

Cimino said most people donate because they either have inherited a coat from a relative or purchased the coat a while ago before learning about cruelties behind the furring process.

“It really appeals to people because they recognize the animals have suffered and die for this object, and so they want to give it back to a purpose that will help animals,” Cimino said. “It does a little bit of justice. It could never make up for the cruelty, but with this cause, I think it does give people a sense of closure.”

PETA has been collecting furs since its inception in 1980. Since 2001, it has collected and received more than 10,000 fur donations that the organization uses for its anti-fur demonstrations, educational purposes and, like the campaign with Buffalo Exchange, donations to homeless shelters and wildlife centers, Hurling said.

Cimino said since The HSUS had such a successful run with the campaign with Buffalo Exchange locations throughout the nation last year, they decided to do it again=this year.

—The Columbia Chronicle, November 12, 2007


Download PDF.