For years people have kindly offered to give us used fur to use as bedding for wildlife babies. They no longer want to wear fur because they don’t approve of the inhumane fur industry and killing animals just for clothing. They want the fur to go to help animals. We of course are also against the fur industry. Fur is very cruel and unnecessary. People do not need fur coats any more.
Many years ago I said “yes” to one old jacket. The used fur did not work out too well for our group. We no longer accept fur but are grateful that people think about helping wildlife when discarding fur items. I’d like to explain why we don’t accept fur so people will understand. Hopefully we can come up with a humane and safe use for unwanted fur items in the future. Better yet, stop making new ones.
Our first concern was prey animals possibly getting used to the scent of predator animals and not fearing them when they go back to the wild. Most fur coats are made of fox, raccoon, squirrel, rabbit, mink. We rehab small native wildlife, i.e. coyotes, bobcats, foxes, raccoons, opossums, skunks, squirrels…all the way down to bats. We had no proof that this would happen but it was a concern. This is why we never let wildlife getting ready for release near domestic cats and dogs or other wildlife species. We don’t want them to get used to them. We want squirrels to run away from cats, dogs, hawks, coyotes…
Our second concern was the material falling apart and possibly being ingested by the animals. When I received the first jacket which was large I trimmed it into smaller pieces to use as bedding. When you trim the hide/pelt, sometimes the fur comes off in bunches. Our wildlife babies tend to suckle/nurse on anything fur-like such as their stuffed toys or fake fleece. It’s their natural instinct as they would do this with their mothers. Raccoons, squirrels can suckle very hard and easily swallow pieces of material. They could easily swallow the fur and parts of the pelt which could cause a blockage or just make them ill. When we give them cloth for bedding we have to be careful to make sure there are no holes or strings. They sometimes suckle those or can get tangled up. As it is they sometimes suckle each other.
Our third concern was being able to properly sterilize the fur bedding. Babies will pee, poo, get food on the fur bedding. We must be able to sterilize it without it falling apart in hot water with maybe some bleach. Some fur pieces dissolve in the wash depending on how they’ve been tanned. It would be pretty wasteful just to use a mink coat for bedding for one day. Plus, it would create a lot of trash. We try to be very “green” at Animal Advocates which is why we use recycled materials for our caging, use unwanted human food that would end up in the trash, grow our own plant foods and compost the herbivore feces and food debris.
Our fourth concern was the toxicity of the tanning solutions used to make the fur garment.* The tanning solutions are carcinogenic and that’s just if you make or wear the coat. What if you are a baby animal sucking on the fur coat, sleeping on it all the time? They are ingesting it directly besides breathing the fumes. I personally am allergic to the tanning solutions. I can smell it and it makes me very nauseous.
In the 1950’s the chemicals used were extremely toxic. They use toxic solvents to dissolve the fat and flesh from the skin. They also use it to break down the skin tissue to make the pelt soft. They use preservatives similar to formaldehyde to preserve the dead animal’s skin. They use anti-fungal and bactericides to kill fungus and bacteria in the dead animal. A fur coat is basically a piece of beef jerky with fur attached. They outlawed certain chemicals yet still they were dangerous. In the 1980’s they outlawed even more tanning solutions. If you want to buy some tanning solution, they will not ship by airplane because it is dangerous. They only ship by ground.
For these four reasons we don’t accept fur donations but thanks for thinking about us. I don’t suggest giving fur to animal groups for these same reasons. Some groups turn the fur coats into teddy bears which they sell for profit but I personally feel this still promotes fur. Plus, heaven forbid a baby suckles on a fur teddy bear. If it’s bad for baby animals, it’s bad for human babies as well. This is why they outlawed the taxidermy chicks. Babies were putting them in their mouths and getting sick.
At the moment I don’t know of a safe way to recycle fur garments without promoting fur. I can only hope that in the future people will stop buying fur items which promote animal cruelty and are toxic. Fur coats also make people look fat. There are other non-animal materials that are cheaper, cruelty-free and are more fashionable than fur. If you really insist on wearing fur, just stop shaving your legs 😉
If anyone has a suggestion for a humane, safe way to recycle unwanted fur items, please, let me know. Keep in mind the pelts are toxic because of the tanning solutions. For that reason I don’t think they’d make good insulation or stuffing material and shouldn’t be put in the ground. I personally feel there should be a warning label on them especially because I am allergic.
There are other animal groups that may use fur. To each his/her own. We can agree to disagree on this issue. Animal Advocates does not use fur items for the above reasons. I support other groups who help animals even if we may not agree 100% on everything.
*Some tanning solutions: antiseptics/biocides which contain arsenic, mercury, lindane, or pentachlorophenol or other chlorinated substances, pesticides to keep insects away after killing before skinning animal, sulfide, chrome, formic acid, xylene, formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, “stop rot,” dried blood remover, degreaser, potassium hydroxide (KOH), wood-ash lye, bactericide, fungicide, leathering acid, fat-b-gone, pickle acid, degreaser, powdered borax, aluminum sulphate, tanner’s salt, zinc sulphate, germicide, boric acid, citrus acid, vinegar, lacquer thinner, isopropyl alcohol, paint thinner, hydrogen peroxide 35%, gasoline, deputrifyer/deodorizer to cover smell of harmful chemicals, bleach, toxic colorants and dyes… Some of these are considered “dangerous goods.”
Here’s an article about how bad the waste of the fur industry and disposal of used tanning chemicals is on the environment. The EPA overseas these businesses for this reason. http://www1.ifc.org/wps/wcm/connect/7d72fb00488553bab04cf26a6515bb18/tanning_PPAH.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=7d72fb00488553bab04cf26a6515bb18
Mary Cummins of Animal Advocates is a wildlife rehabilitator licensed by the California Department of Fish and Game and the USDA. Mary Cummins is also a licensed real estate appraiser in Los Angeles, California.
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