Kennel Quilts: Helping Animals During Natural Disasters

During the floods from Hurricane Floyd in North Carolina in 1999, animal shelters in the area found themselves in need blankets and towels for the incoming animals. Nan aka Brandy soon discovered that while the donations worked great for the dogs, they were too cumbersome for the cat kennels. “The cats would end up sitting in their litter boxes and that was not good for them,” said Nan. “An interior designer called and said she had carpet samples and asked could we use them. We could and they were perfect. I never forgot that.” Indeed, she didn’t. In 2012, when animal shelters in the Northeast United States found themselves with a similar need fro blankets and towels, Nan had an solution for them. 

Photo provided by Nan
Photo provided by Nan

ALLISON: Tell me about your training in the animal welfare field.

NAN: In 1993, when I moved to Florida, we had to evacuate because of a Tropical Storm. Of course, I took my two cats with me. I met with the Emergency Management Director afterwards and wanted to know what provisions were made for animals. There were none. I contacted The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in Washington DC and they put me in touch with Laura Bevan who was the SE Regional Director in Tallahassee for HSUS. She held a disaster workshop and I attended. That started me on my road to work in Animal Rescue which has included training in HAZMAT, wildfires, damage assessment, swift water rescue, repelling, temporary shelter set-up and search and rescue.

I was the first ESF-17 Animal Protection Liaison for Walton County, FL, a volunteer position. I was the NW Representative for the FL Animal Disaster Planning Advisory Committee, a member of the Disaster Animal Response Team (DART), and the Walton County Emergency Planning Advisory Council. I created The CASEY Plan (Caring for Animals Safely in Emergencies during the Year), which was distributed by HSUS and Wal-Mart. I received the Public Information Award at the 1999 Governor’s Hurricane Conference for The CASEY Plan and recognition from HSUS. I have responded to fires, floods and hurricanes in FL, GA, NC and NM as part of the HSUS Animal Response Team.

First Kennel Quilt in a carrier; Photo provided by Nan
First Kennel Quilt in a carrier; Photo provided by Nan

ALLISON: How did the TQPM Small Kennel Quilt Team form?

NAN: I have a degree in Marketing and I joined The Quilt Pattern Magazine (TQPM) as Marketing Director in 2010. We were the first online digital quilt magazine. When I discovered that all the staff loved animals, I tried several ideas regarding helping animals. As I had cats that needed to be transported to the veterinarian, I decided to make them a Kennel Quilt. I then asked if we could share the pattern for FREE on the magazine website and advise our readers to do the same for their pets. Our CEO also added a FREE pattern. We checked with a veterinarian for safety guidelines for the Kennel Quilts.

Then Hurricane Sandy slammed into the Northeast US bringing lots of destruction. I could really empathize with the situation and I remembered my experience in NC with the carpet mats. I knew Kennel Quilts would be perfect for the carriers for the animals in this disaster situation. I called The Petfinder Foundation and asked if they had names of shelters that could use Kennel Quilts. They gave me names of several shelters. We sent an email to all our readers and directed them to the FREE patterns. Within a week or two over 100 Kennel Quilts had been sent. Everybody was blown away by the response. Rather than making it a onetime response, TQPM partnered with The Petfinder Foundation to form the TQPM Kennel Quilt Team. And the rest is history.

mascot kitty, Pretty Girl from Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region in Colorado Springs during the fires in 2013; Photo provided by Nan
Mascot Kitty, Pretty Girl from Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region in Colorado Springs during the fires in 2013; Photo provided by Nan

ALLISON: How do your quilts help animals?

NAN: The Kennel Quilts help animals by getting the kitties out of the litter boxes and onto a soft, warm quilt. They are great for puppies and small dogs as well. One of the shelters that has received Kennel Quilts from us several times due to floods calls them “Love Art”.

The Petfinder Foundation also heard from many shelters that the Kennel Quilts were helping with adoptions as they made the shelter kennels look so much more like home. We have heard the same thing from shelters. So getting pets adopted is definitely a big plus for Kennel Quilts.

I have to say however that Kennel Quilts don’t only help animals; they help the people that are making them as well. Most quilters are animal lovers and quilters have scraps that are left over from projects. Making Kennel Quilts gives them a way to help animals and use up their scraps at the same time. Combining two passions is a win/win for all. Most people want to help during a disaster, but are not sure how or they can’t afford a monetary donation. This is the perfect answer for them. It gives them a way to help animals in need and a way to give back to a community. I can’t tell you how many emails I have received from quilters thanking TQPM for starting this program. For many it has given them a new meaning for life. It gives them a purpose. That’s pretty remarkable. And with the Covid crisis right now, there are many
Kennel Quilts being made. To date we have donated over 40,000 Kennel Quilts around the US and Canada.

Photo provided by Nan
Photo provided by Nan

ALLISON: How many volunteers do you have?

NAN: Today we have over 1800 volunteers all over the US and Canada.

ALLISON: Where are some unique places you’ve sent quilts to?

NAN: We have sent Kennel Quilts all over the US mainland plus Hawaii and Alaska. We helped Hawaii with Kennel Quilts when the volcano was erupting on the Big Island. We have sent Kennel Quilts to Canada. We even have some quilters that have made Kennel Quilts for their shelters in Australia, Norway, and England.

Photo provided by Nan
Photo provided by Nan

ALLISON: How long does a quilt take to make?

NAN: A quick simple Kennel Quilt can take around two hours. They are the size of a placemat 12″ x 18″. However many of our quilters like to do some fancy Kennel Quilts or make use of quilt blocks that they have left over from a quilt project. So it all depends on what kind you make.

ALLISON: What inspired you to become a quilter?

NAN: I was a cross stitch and needlepoint designer and the handwork was easy to carry when I went from designing to disasters. When that industry began to wane, I switched to quilting as a lot of my designs would be great for applique quilts.

Thread made by Aurifil to help promote the line of fabric by Island Batik and of course the Aurifil Thread; Photo provided by Nan
Thread made by Aurifil to help promote the line of fabric by Island Batik and of course the Aurifil Thread; Photo provided by Nan

ALLISON: What is your best success story?

NAN: The Quilt Pattern Magazine worked with other professionals in the quilting industry to help animals. Aurifil Thread headquartered in Italy with an office in Chicago made a special thread package for helping animals and donated a percentage of the sales to the Petfinder Foundation. Bernina Sewing Machines headquartered in Switzerland with an office in Chicago designed a sewing machine with Paw Prints and gave a $30,000 donation to the Petfinder Foundation from the sales of the machine. Island Batik Fabrics headquartered in CA and Benartex Fabrics headquartered in NY donated portions of the sales of their fabrics to the Petfinder Foundation. Quilty Box headquartered in Montana made a Kennel Quilt Maker Box for sale and donated all the profits to the Petfinder Foundation. The Warm Company Batting from Washington State and Andover Fabrics from NY have donated batting and fabric for Kennel Quilts. In 2016 at the International Quilt Market in Houston, TX, all of the sponsors mentioned above held a promotion to “Piece for Shelter Pets”. This went on at market and carried over to the following spring to raise awareness about shelters and ways to help. Shops joined in and every Friday for several months, shelter pets for adoption were shared on Facebook.

Photo provided by Nan
Photo provided by Nan

ALLISON: What is your worst failure story?

NAN: I don’t really have a worst failure story that I can remember. Maybe when Kennel Quilts didn’t arrive at their destination for one reason or another and sent back to the quilter. It caused a delay in getting Kennel Quilts to the pets.

ALLISON: Give a tip to other aspiring quilters.

NAN: Kennel Quilts are small and are easy to make. You can use up scraps because the pets don’t care if the colors match or if our points don’t line up. They just want a soft place to nap. They are a great way to get young quilters involved as most kids love animals and want to help them. You can make all sorts of blocks and practice your machine quilting skills.

ALLISON: Why should others help?

NAN: Shelters always need bedding particularly when there is a disaster as they usually get overwhelmed with an influx of animals. Getting a quilt group or guild to make Kennel Quilts, having a local quilt shop hold a Kennel Quilt workshop, using Kennel Quilts as a community project for schools or having quilters at a church focus on Kennel Quilts raises awareness about shelters and hopefully more people will get involved with their local shelter and help get animals adopted into a “furrever” home.

Photo provided by Nan
Photo provided by Nan

ALLISON: How can others help?

NAN: Making Kennel Quilts has been a blessing for me to help animals during disasters as I can’t do Search and Rescue or work disasters anymore. I can still keep in touch with the animal community that I worked with for so many ways in a helpful and meaningful way especially for the animals.

I would be happy to help organize a Kennel Quilt workshop (virtually) for any that would like to have one. I realize that with the Covid 19 crisis, quilt shops need different ways to reach their customers. This may be a way. If a shelter would like help in working with a quilt shop for their shelter, I will be happy to assist. Also if shelters are affected by a disaster, they need to contact me so I can put out a call for Kennel Quilts for their affected animals.

ALLISON: Since Nan sent this interview to me, there have been fires in California and Hurricane Laura. Both of these disasters have devastated areas in their path. Her group has been sending Kennel Quilts to so many shelters affected by these disasters. The need is great and they would be delighted to have anyone who wishes join them in helping these shelter pets.

 

ALLISON: Anything else?

NAN: We have Feline and Canine Kennel Quilt Inspectors. These are the quilters pets and when they ship them to the shelters, they have pictures of their pets with the Kennel Quilts. The cats give the “Paw of Approval” and the dogs give the “Wag of Approval” for their furry friends who will get the Kennel Quilts. The pets have quite a following.

Please you check out the Kennel Quilt website at http://www.kennelquilts.com and also like our Facebook
page at http://www.facebook.com/TQPMKennelQuilts plus we are on Instagram at @tqpmsmallkennelquilts. I can be contacted at nan@purrfetspots.com Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about TQPM Kennel Quilts

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