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April 2, 2009

Md. Senate Passes Bill to Protect Consumers from Unlabeled Fur Products

The Humane Society of the United States

WASHINGTON — The Humane Society of the United States applauds the Maryland State Senate for passing legislation requiring all garments made of animal fur to be labeled as such and urged the House of Delegates to move the bill quickly. S.B. 342, sponsored by Sen. Catherine Pugh, D-40, passed the Senate by a vote of 34 to 13. Delegate Tom Hucker, D-20, has introduced a companion bill, H.B. 208, in the House of Delegates.

A recent investigation by The Humane Society of the United States revealed that many designers and retailers were selling unlabeled fur-trimmed jackets as "faux," "raccoon" or "rabbit" that actually came from domestic dogs or raccoon dogs, an Asian canine species. Domestic dog fur has also been found on unlabeled garments sold in the United States despite being illegal.

"I own a pair of gloves with fur trim that are completely unlabeled," said Sen. Pugh. "I feel I have the right to know what these gloves are made of, and this bill will ensure that all consumers have information they need to make purchasing decisions."

"Maryland consumers would be outraged to know they are being duped into buying fur from a type of dog that has documented to be commonly skinned alive in China," said Michael Markarian, The HSUS' executive vice president. "We applaud Maryland lawmakers for working to protect shoppers from this cruel deception."

Wednesday's vote in favor of S.B. 342 will require all new garments containing animal fur sold in Maryland to be labeled with the type of animal fur and the country of origin. Similar legislation was signed into law in Delaware last year. New York, Massachusetts and Wisconsin already have similar laws.

A loophole in the federal fur labeling law allows products with a "relatively small quantity or value" to go unlabeled. This loophole means that many unlabeled garments are falsely advertised as the wrong species or even as "faux" fur, so consumers cannot be sure what they are getting. Legislation is expected to be introduced in Congress that would close the federal loophole and protect consumers nationwide.

Timeline:

  • November 2008 – HSUS files suit against a number of major retailers including Macy's, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue for engaging in false advertising and mislabeling of fur garments.
  • September 2008 – U.S. Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Norm Coleman, R-Minn., introduce the Truth in Fur Labeling Act, S. 3610.
  • November 2007 - New York fur labeling law goes into effect.
  • August 15, 2007 – New York Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal's legislation to require fur labeling signed into law in New York.
  • March 2007 – The HSUS files petition with the Federal Trade Commission seeking to enforce the Fur Products Labeling Act.
  • February 2007 - U.S. Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Michael Ferguson, R-N.J., introduce the Dog and Cat Fur Prohibition Enforcement Act, H.R. 891.
  • February 2007 - Tests commissioned by HSUS investigators find domestic dog fur on unlabeled jackets advertised as "faux" fur.
  • December 2006 - Tests commissioned by HSUS investigators find raccoon dog fur on jackets advertised as "faux" and labeled as other species such as raccoon or coyote.
  • February 2006 – The HSUS announces widespread industry scandal finding raccoon dog fur for sale in the United States.

Background:

  • The Federal Fur Products Labeling Act of 1951 was passed to protect consumers by requiring all garments with real fur to indicate species and country of origin on clothing labels, but a loophole allows some fur-trimmed garment to be exempt.
  • Delaware, New York and Wisconsin all passed laws to require more complete fur labeling.
  • Raccoon dog is the most commonly unlabeled or misrepresented type of fur sold in the United States, according to HSUS investigations.
  • Raccoon dogs have been documented to be skinned alive in China for their fur.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.

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