Fur flees: Rummage sale shuns pelts

 When word got out that the Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA would be selling donated furs at its biannual rummage sale, some animal lovers got their dander up.

"Disgusting hypocrisy," is how one angry activist described the change in SPCA policy in a letter to The Hook. The current sale is now under way through November 2 at the former Moore's home improvement center on Pantops.

But SPCA director Carolyn Foreman says the new policy announced in an October 21 Daily Progress story– was a misunderstanding.

"It was... a decision at the rummage sale that they kind of made out of enthusiasm for raising as much money for the animals as possible," Foreman explains. "In hindsight, that's not our policy. We don't promote anything that would cause inhumane suffering."

Because of that policy, Foreman says, no furs will be sold at this year's or any year's SPCA sales, which typically bring in nearly a third of the organization's $950,000 operating budget.

So what to do with those furry cast-offs?

As Foreman points out, the furs were given with good intentions, and the last thing the SPCA wants to do is slight someone trying to help their cause. "We want to respect the spirit in which it's donated," she says.

Foreman notes that there's a lot of that spirit to respect: "We've had quite a few donations."

In the past, says Foreman, the SPCA has given furs to other non-animal-oriented non-profit organizations such as the Salvation Army. This year, the SPCA will be doing something new.

While reporting on this story, The Hook learned what several national organizations, such as the D.C.-based Humane Society of the United States, do with their donated furs.

"The proper end for a fur is to give it right back to the animals," says Society spokesperson Andrea Cimino. Her organization distributes furs to wildlife rehabilitation centers across the country.

"Most rehabbers are begging us for fur," Cimino explains. "They say it works wonders for the animals," particularly orphaned baby animals who burrow into the cut-up pelts.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has a similar fur donation program, but it is broader in scope. In addition to using donated fur for animal rehabilitation, the organization uses it for educational displays and for "Anti Fur Fashion Shows," the type of red-paint throwing performances for which the organization is famous.

And, surprisingly, there are certain instances where PETA considers it appropriate for humans to wear fur. At a series of "Fur Kitchens," held throughout the year, PETA offers fur coats to the homeless, which as their website points out, are "the only people who have any excuse to wear fur." They also send the coats to Afghanistan to keep women and children warm during the freezing winter months.

After hearing about these programs, the SPCA's Foreman says the group decided to send the donated furs (with the exception of two already promised to UVA's drama department) to the animals at the Wildlife Center of Virginia in Waynesboro.

While donated furs will bring tax deductions for the giver, they won't provide any cash to the SPCA.

"Somebody could have reaped the harvest from them," says Shirley Ehrhardt, owner of Twice as Nice, a non-profit consignment shop which has sold full-length furs for as much as $400. "I would have tried to sell them," says Ehrhardt, whose shop benefits the Jefferson Area Board for Aging.

Next year donors to the SPCA sale will learn up front where their fur will fly.

"If the donor doesn't mind them being used to help the animals," says Foreman, "that's where they'll go."