Dog Fur Used in Clothing Sold in US - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

03/06/07

Dog Fur Used in Clothing Sold in US

One of the garments identified in the HSUS investigation. One of the garments identified in the HSUS investigation.

Have you  bought a jacket with fake fur trim? If so, you'd better check the label again, because a recent study by the Humane Society of the United States discovered that the fur on jackets made by many of fashion's top brands is really from dogs.

But the fur industry is about to get a major wakeup call.  On February 7, US Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA Dist. 8), US Rep. Michael Ferguson (R-NJ Dist. 7), and 27 cosponsors introduced the Dog and Cat Fur Prohibition Enforcement Act.  The bill aims to close existing loopholes in current legislation and add new restrictions on the fur industry.

For the Humane Society, it could finally be the start of ending dog and cat fur trade in America.

Domestic dogs and cats have been the target of this form of abuse for years, but the recent HSUS investigation centered on the raccoon dog, a species of dog indigenous to East Asia. The raccoon dog gets its name from its markings; it's a member of the dog family that looks like a raccoon. In countries like China, raccoon dogs are rounded up and killed. Their fur is then used for fur trim for garments sold in the US.

Kristin Leppert, fur campaign manager for the Humane Society, told wtoc.com, "We received reports of raccoon dogs being raised and killed in terrible ways in China and sold here. We also received tips about fur-trimmed jackets being sold with problematic advertising and labeling." 

Between 2005 and 2007, the HSUS conducted an ongoing investigation, examining and testing the fur on coats and other garments. "We sent them to a specialized laboratory that uses mass spectrometry techniques," explained Leppert.

The results were shocking. During its two year investigation, HSUS found that numerous name brands in the US use dog fur on their coats, but falsely label their products as using "faux" fur or that of other animals such as raccoon or rabbit.

According to HSUS findings, brands such as Rocawear, Sean Jean and Baby Phat were advertising some jackets as faux fur. But tests revealed that the fur used by these brands was actually raccoon dog. 

In addition to brands advertising and labeling dog fur as fake fur, HSUS also found brands that were mislabeling raccoon dog fur as that of other animals. Jackets made by Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, DKNY and others had raccoon dog fur in them, but were labeled as just "raccoon."

HSUS also found three retailers selling jackets with domestic dog fur. The use of domestic dog fur has been banned since the Dog and Cat Protection Act of 2000, which prohibits the import, export, advertisement or sale of domestic dog and cat fur. Tommy Hilfiger, Joie, and MARC New York all sold clothing with fur advertised as faux fur, but HSUS testing results revealed the fur was dog.  

In addition to these findings, HSUS also discovered that the origin and manufacturing country of most of the fur in these brands was China, where, according to Leppert, it is estimated that 1.5 million raccoon dogs are being used for their fur. 

Retrieving the fur from the raccoon dog is a brutal process.  "Raccoon dogs in China are kept in small metal cages and are then beaten with clubs, slammed to the ground, and too often skinned alive for their fur," Leppert told us.

That fur is then sent to a manufacturer, imported here, and sold under false labeling.

The 2007 Moran-Ferguson Dog and Cat Fur Prohibition Enforcement Act aims to change that. A loophole in the 1951 Fur Products Labeling Act allows fur worth up to $150 to be used on a piece of clothing without requiring a fur label. 

Many manufacturers are taking advantage of it, and according to HSUS, one in seven garments in the US fall into that loophole.

The new act would stop the sale of raccoon dogs' fur and finally close the $150 loophole of the 1951 act.  If passed, all garments containing fur, regardless of amount or value, must be properly labeled.

When told about the HSUS investigation, many retailers responded positively. Macy's, Rocawear and Sean Jean all pulled the mislabeled garments from shelves and according to the HSUS, Calvin Klein announced it would phase out the use of fur altogether.

But these efforts barely scratch the surface and many brands are still using raccoon dog and domestic dog and cat fur in their clothing.

So what can local consumers do? We spoke with Lynn Gensamer, executive director for the Humane Society Chatham/Savannah. She told us, "Consumers should not buy products that are made from dog fur, or to have even more impact, any fashions from the 'guilty' designers. Everyone should spread the word."

Jackie Blazier, a volunteer with Coastal Pet Rescue in Savannah, agrees. She believes making educated buying decisions is one of the best ways consumers can help.

For Gensamer, communication is key for any effort made by local rescue groups to fight the battle against animal cruelty and help spread the word about responsible pet care and ownership.

"Local animal welfare and rescue organizations already are stressed by the volume and seriousness of pet overpopulation and irresponsible pet ownership that we face every day here in Savannah/Chatham County," says Gensamer.

Animal neglect and cruelty comes in many forms, both around the world and here at home.

"Our animal neglect, abuse and cruelty problems, while less glitzy, impact us more directly and frequently," said Gensamer. "We have a real challenge, every day, right here at home."

Leppert, Gensamer and Blazier all believe the best way to make a difference is by having a voice. "Urge Congress to pass HR 891, the Dog and Cat Fur Prohibition Enforcement Act," said Leppert.

You can find contact information for members of Congress online. Visit http://www.house.gov/ and search by ZIP code to find your local representative.

For more information about this legislation or to learn more about its campaign against fur and animal cruelty, visit the Humane Society of America's website at http://www.hsus.org/furfree/home.html.  

Reported by: Sarah Schuster, sschuster@wtoc.com

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