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The Humane Society wants old fur coats for the furry

Coats for Cubs program of the Humane Society uses donated fur coats to comfort orphaned or impaired wildlife.

Orphan bunnies feel cozy in a donated fur coat nest.

Humane Society of the United States/AP

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Got a fur coat gathering dust? The Humane Society suggests the ultimate recycling — putting it on the backs of other animals.

The Coats for Cubs program by the Humane Society of the United States helps orphaned, injured, or sick wildlife by gathering fur coats and using them for nests, bedding, or cuddly replacements for mom and dad. In 2009, 2,687 fur items were donated.

"We use the discarded furs as bedding to give the animals comfort and reduce stress," says Michael Markarian, the agency's chief operating officer in Washington, D.C. "The fur garments act as a surrogate mother. It is a warm and furry substitute."

The coats go to wildlife rehabilitation centers that take in baby raccoons, chipmunks, squirrels, coyotes, skunks, and other animals, and has helped thousands of animals since it began in 2005 with the Fund for Animals.

Mr. Markarian says many of the coats are donated by people who find fur to be inhumane — whether the animals are trapped in steel-jawed traps or raised on factory farms. For those who have fur and no longer want to wear it, "This is a great way for them to give back to the animals," he says.

Amber Ginter, 13, from Kingston, Ohio, spent last summer collecting fur coats as part of a community project affiliated with the Humane Society. She put a box in her church, wrote a letter describing the project in the church bulletin and collected 30 coats in two months, she says.

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