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June 25, 2009

NJ Legislature Passes Bill to Protect Consumers from Unlabeled Fur Products

The Humane Society of the United States

The Humane Society of the United States praised the New Jersey State Senate for passing legislation requiring all garments made of animal fur to be labeled as such. Introduced by Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-1, S. 2472 passed with a vote of 37 to 1. In March a similar bill, A. 2653, sponsored by Assemblymember Nilsa Cruz-Perez, D-5, passed the State Assembly with a vote of 61 to 16. If enacted, New Jersey will become the fifth state to pass a strong fur labeling law.

"This bill has to do with the consumers' right to know what they're wearing — whether it's cotton, silk, polyester, mink or dog fur," said Sen. Van Drew. "The bottom line is that there are people walking around wearing dog fur, who don't know it. By requiring labels to contain the content of the garment, we would be giving consumers the right to determine what they put on their bodies."

"Consumers have the right to know exactly what they are buying so they can make informed purchasing decisions," said Michael Markarian, The HSUS' executive vice president and chief operating officer. "Many people have allergies to fur, have ethical objections to fur, or choose to avoid fur from particular species of animals. We applaud New Jersey lawmakers for passing this important consumer protection bill and hope the governor signs it quickly."

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.

Thursday's vote in favor of S. 2472 — a simple, but important consumer protection measure — will  require all garments containing animal fur sold in New Jersey to be labeled with the type of animal fur and the country of origin. 

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.  U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif., introduced Truth in Fur Labeling Act (S. 1076 and H.R. 2480) in the U.S. Congress to close this federal loophole and protect consumers nationwide.

Timeline:

  • 2005 – The HSUS begins investigation into the raccoon dog fur trade.
  • February 2006 – The HSUS announces widespread industry scandal finding raccoon dog fur for sale in the United States.
  • 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 2007 – Tests commissioned by HSUS investigators find domestic dog fur on unlabeled jackets advertised as "faux" fur.
  • 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.
  • March 2007 – The HSUS files petition with the Federal Trade Commission seeking to enforce the Fur Products Labeling Act.
  • Aug. 15, 2007 – New York Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal's legislation to require fur labeling signed into law in New York.
  • November 2007 – New York fur labeling law goes into effect.
  • 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 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.
  • May 2009 – The Truth in Fur Labeling Act, introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, as H.R. 2480 and S. 1076, to protect consumers by bringing much-needed accuracy and full disclosure to fur labeling laws. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J. and Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif. introduced the bills. 

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, Massachusetts and Wisconsin have 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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