Now here is a revolutionary idea. How would it be if we could return the tens of thousands of “vanity furs” – coats, stoles, etc – back to the animal kingdom from which they were plundered. Sounds far-fetched, we know, but here we talk to an animal welfare advocate Lisa Brennan who, in her own extraordinary way, is doing just that.
In Junkies Issue 13, we caught up with Lisa Brennan to learn more about Snuggle Coats.
Tell us about your organisation and where you are located?
Snuggle Coats is a not-for-profit charity located on the Central Coast of NSW. It was founded in August 2014.
Since we began, more than 1100 fur items have been donated to Snuggle Coats. This represents the lives of 30,000 innocent animals and has a net worth of approximately $1.4 million dollars. A large majority of these items would have ended up as landfill.
We have sent over 150 Snuggle parcels to 130 Animal Carers, Wildlife Parks and animal welfare groups all over Australia. We have 22 fur collection locations around Australia, which are run by our beautiful volunteers.
How did your love of furry creatures evolve?
I have always loved animals and felt the need to be their voice and compassionate supporter. They have such beautiful energy, and love unconditionally. I know they have taught me to be a better person.
What made you decide that animal welfare was a path that you would follow?
Having always loved and supported animals I think that working for their protection and wellbeing was a natural progression. I have extensive studies in animal behaviour and I am employed in the animal welfare sector (Snuggle Coats is my all-consuming passion in my spare hours). I believe that animal welfare is a calling to make the world a better place for all that inhabit it.
What is the most common wildlife that use Snuggle Coats?
This would be our native animals - kangaroos, wallabies, wombats and possums. We also make Snuggly Nests for our native birds in care.
Why is it important to nurture our native animal population?
Since European Settlement over 200 years ago, Australia’s wild animal population has been on a steady decline and over 50 native animals have become extinct. We also have many others on the vulnerable, threatened and endangered species list. These animals are so uniquely Australian and it is up to all of us to play a part in ensuring their survival.
When did you come across the idea of using preloved furs?
I saw an article about a program being run in America and believed that I could start a similar initiative in Australia. I knew there was an abundance of fur lying forgotten in people’s wardrobes and that its owners were just waiting for the right program to donate these items. We are a country of passionate animal supporters, so it made perfect sense.
What are the benefits to the rescue animal?
Many of the animals rescued by our carers have experienced a traumatic start to their life. They have been found by the side of the road or alone in the bush alongside their dead mother.
Snuggle Coats provide the instant warmth and ‘feeling’ of mum. They act as a surrogate during an incredibly stressful time. Carers have told me they can actually see and feel the animal relax for the first time when comforted by a Snuggle Coat.
How did you realise that this could become such a great initiative? What did you have to undertake to be able to spread the idea of Snuggle Coats to other like-minded organisations?
I had an unrelenting belief in the Snuggle Coats Program and the ability to recycle a product into something worthwhile, reduce landfill, educate people on making better choices and spread a little kindness. Sometimes we just ‘know’ and we just need to pursue that dream.
I started with a single fur coat I bought from a local op shop for the bargain sum of $20. I then started contacting everyone I knew in the animal welfare industry, and sent hundreds of emails to animal groups and wildlife parks all over Australia. I set up a website and social media platforms. It was hard work, but I was relentless. And people began to respond, to want to try Snuggle Coats with their animals. And the general public? Well, they embraced the program with such kindness.
I was essentially asking the public to donate a product (worth hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars) with often sentimental attachment to a program because ‘it was the right thing to do’.
Snuggle Coats started its only little circle of kindness.
Can you tell us your favourite story of either a rescue or a donation?
Snuggle Coats has a way of connecting people through the act of giving and receiving. I receive so many heartfelt stories from people so pleased that they can pass their mum’s or grandma’s fur coat onto us to be repurposed and returned back to the animals. And I also receive beautiful feedback from carers that Snuggle Coats has assisted incredibly in the recovery of an animal. One of my favourite stories would be Cedric the Tasmania Devil. He always looked so delighted to be lying on his Snuggle Coat. To have a part in the healing of such an endangered and beautiful Australian species reconfirmed the importance of the Snuggle Coats Program. To have your little dream validated is an amazing feeling.
How can our readers become involved?
People can become involved by supporting Snuggle Coats through fur donations, spreading our story through their social media sites or attending one of our volunteer days. Further information can be found at snugglecoats.org