- The Washington Times - Monday, March 12, 2007


A national animal rights group wants to put a group of fur retailers and manufacturers in the doghouse.

The Humane Society of the United States will ask the Federal Trade Commission today to fine high-end retailers and designers of clothing that contains mislabeled fur from dogs, wolves and raccoon dogs. The group also would like inventories seized and perhaps charges filed.

“Consumers have a right to know what they are purchasing,” said Michael Markarian, the executive vice president of the Humane Society. “If they are truly getting a type of dog fur, they should be outraged.”

The documents filed with the FTC name designers Andrew Marc and Michael Kors, among others. Many major department stores, including Barneys New York, Macy’s, Dillard’s, J.C. Penney, and Neiman Marcus also were cited.

The petition stems from a Humane Society investigation that turned up products that were made with fur from dogs, wolves or raccoon dogs, a species found mainly in China, that were sold as either fake fur or other types of fur in violation of the Federal Fur Products Labeling Act.

Raccoon dogs look like oversize, fluffy raccoons and aren’t kept as pets. Importing their fur is not illegal, but activists argue they are still a type of dog.

Mislabeling fur is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $5,000 fine or a year in prison. Fur valued at less than $150 doesn’t have to be labeled.

Jim Sluzewski, a spokesman for Macy’s parent, Federated Department Stores Inc., said his company opposes selling dog fur but takes its vendors on faith that they comply with company policy.

“It is our vendors that label product, and we expect them to do so accurately,” he said in an e-mail. “We take immediate action whenever we find a violation of policy.”

Late last year, Macy’s immediately pulled from its shelves coats with raccoon dog fur but labeled as raccoon after the Humane Society raised the issue with the chain.

“Macy’s hasn’t done enough as far as we’re concerned,” Mr. Markarian said yesterday, claiming that it is still selling other products with raccoon dog fur.

The Humane Society said in its petition that Barneys sold fur-trimmed jackets marketed as coyote fur when it was really fur from wolves. Barneys did not return a call for comment.

Josh Chapman, a spokesman for the manufacturer of the jacket, I. Spiewak and Sons Inc., said his company inspects the facilities where they purchase coyote fur. “We certainly know that everything is coyote; nothing could be anything else,” Mr. Chapman insisted.

Design company Michael Kors (USA) Inc. said it is conducting its own internal investigation of the sources of fur products it sold through Dillard’s stores. Dillard’s did not respond to requests for comment. J.C. Penney said it had no comment.

Neiman Marcus Group Inc. spokeswoman Ginger Reeder said her company removed all products with fur trim from their Web sites after the Humane Society investigation.

“Further investigation assured us that these vendors were also in compliance with this act and they have provided us with proof that the merchandise is properly labeled,” Miss Reeder said.

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