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August 11, 2010

Calif. Lawmakers Pass Measure to Address Widespread Consumer Deception in Fur Fashion Industry

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Humane Society of the United States applauds California's Senate for passing Assembly Bill 1656  — a measure that requires garments sold in California that are made of animal fur to say so on the label — and urges California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign it into law. On Wednesday, the Senate passed the bill with bipartisan support, by a vote of 22 to 11. The bill previously passed 59 to 11 in the Assembly and now heads to the governor's desk.

AB 1656 — co-authored by Assemblymember Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, and Assemblymember Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, and championed in the other chamber by Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Antioch — was introduced after investigations in the Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento areas found unlabeled animal fur jackets for sale at well-known stores, in several instances being described by the salespeople as fake fur. Although a federal law requires labeling of most animal fur apparel, many fur-trimmed jackets are exempt under a loophole and do not currently require labeling.

"Right now, there are jackets for sale in California stores that say nothing on the label about the raccoon dog fur trimming the hood," said Jennifer Fearing, The HSUS' California senior state director. "The Humane Society of the United States urges the governor to sign AB 1656 to grant consumers full disclosure about whether garments contain animal fur."

In November 2009, an HSUS investigator accompanied a news crew in the Los Angeles area where it was discovered that unlabeled animal fur garments — as allowed by the current loophole — were being sold at stores including Bloomingdale's, Burlington Coat Factory and a children's boutique where the fur had been dyed pink.

"With more than one million items of clothing or accessories being sold with animal fur in the U.S. each year, it only makes sense that consumers know what kind of fur they are wearing," said Assemblywoman Fiona Ma. "There is an assumption out there that if a garment isn't labeled it must be fake — this isn't always the case. People have a right to know if they are buying dog fur or a polyester blend. It shouldn't be a mystery."

"Many consumers choose not to buy fur products because they have ethical objections or are allergic to animal fur," said Assemblymember Lieu. "This bill will help consumers get the facts about the contents of these garments."

In January 2010, unlabeled animal fur apparel — as allowed by the current federal loophole — was found in the San Francisco area, including Coach brand boots at Macy's; a dyed pink jacket by Bryan Bradley at Loehmann's; and Baby Phat, Rocawear and Utex brand jackets at Burlington Coat Factory. In Sacramento, an unlabeled Nicole Miller jacket was discovered at a Loehmann's.

If California enacts AB 1656, it would join Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Wisconsin and become the sixth state with a fur labeling law. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill introduced by Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif., to close the federal loophole and require labeling of all fur apparel regardless of value, and that legislation is now pending in the U.S. Senate.

B-roll is available for media download here.          

Timeline:

  • 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.
  • March 2007 – The HSUS files petition with the Federal Trade Commission seeking to enforce the Fur Products Labeling Act.
  • August 2007 – New York Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal's legislation to require fur labeling is signed into law in New York.
  • July 2008 – Delaware becomes the fourth state to enact fur labeling law.
  • 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 – U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif., introduce The Truth in Fur Labeling Act, H.R. 2480 and S. 1076, to protect consumers by bringing much-needed accuracy and full disclosure to fur labeling laws.
  • November 2009 – New Jersey becomes the fifth state to enact fur labeling law.
  • March 2010 – California Assembly Bill 1656 passes the Assembly Judiciary Committee unanimously. 
  • April 2010 – AB 1656 passes the full Assembly by a vote of 58-10.
  • July 2010 – The U.S. House of Representatives passes the Truth in Fur Labeling Act.

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 garments with fur valued at $150 or less to be exempt.
  • 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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