New Law to Boost Trust in Legitimate Fur Trade

New Law to Boost Trust in Legitimate Fur Trade

By: Staff  Date: 01/9/2012 Category: | Animal Legislation |

Late in October, the Senate passed by unanimous consent HR 4868, the Tariff Suspension and Trade Act of 2000, which includes a prohibition on the importation of any products containing domestic dog and cat fur. The House passed the same bill a few days before.

The final, revised language on domestic dog/cat fur legislation addresses all of the objections raised by the fur industry in connection with the original Senate bill that passed in September. The final bill should strengthen consumer confidence in the legitimate fur trade while narrowly addressing what could have become a problem in the future: the mislabeling of unacceptable products and their clandestine importation into the burgeoning US fur market.

Many in the fur trade felt that such an illicit trade could never become established in the US since experts can easily tell one product from another. Furthermore, the long and honorable ties between brokers and buyers, some going back hundreds of years, would not allow for such activity. However, with the resurgence of fur, there was a fear that small retailers handling fur for the first time might be duped by new and unscrupulous traders.

To address this potential problem, the fur trade worked hard analyzing how to improve what was, originally, a very poorly written bill. Troubling provisions that the Humane Society of the US had included in the original bill introduced by Congressman Kleczka and Senator Roth were removed last July in response to comments filed by FCUSA(1) and never made their way back. These included the creation of citizens suits to enforce the bill, and the empowerment of "duly authorized officers," such as HSUS inspectors, to enforce the law.

The final bill does contain a debarment provision by which the government could prevent a person from importing/exporting or distributing any fur product. However, this draconian remedy will only be used if there occurs a pattern of violations due to intentional fraud or gross negligence. The bill's original version might have permitted use of this remedy even for inadvertent violations, and the small-quantity labeling provision could have shifted the onus to small "mom and pop" stores trading in fur trim items. The final draft puts the blame for violations where it belongs: on unscrupulous brokers attempting to deceive the public, not small retailers, many of whom, due to the revival in fur's popularity, are trading in fur for the first time.


Fur trade friends pull together

The efforts of many people down the stretch were critical to the successful result.

HSUS had initiated a major grass roots campaign to try to get the House to accept the Senate version of the bill. In response, a coalition of mass retailers, textile/apparel importers, and fur industry reps pressed the House to reject the Senate version. The final language reflects the success of their efforts.

Among those who labored long and hard were Mark Schumacher3 of the Fur Information Council of America and Joe Poser of the American Fur Merchants Association, both of whom had key conversations with House and Senate staffers working on the final language. FCUSA helped with a letter-writing and calling campaign directed at House Ways and Means Committee members.


The devil lies in the implementation

The bill now goes to the President for signature, and then comes the implementation stage. "It is important that the industry participate in the regulatory process, including reviewing and commenting on any regulatory proposals developed by Customs or any other agency," said FICA's Schumacher. "Our objective all along has been to support the concept of the bill so long as it does not impede trade in legitimate fur products. How Customs interprets and implements the bill's enforcement provisions will ultimately determine whether the legislative success will be translated into the implementation process."

"We will be tracking this process very closely and expect all segments of the industry involved in the importation, exportation, distribution and sale of fur products, may want to comment on these regulatory proposals," said trade expert Larry Lasoff of Collier Shannon Scott, PLLC in Washington, DC.(3) In brief, consumers are protected by law from unscrupulous traders trying to sell one product as another. Labeling fraud laws and substantial penalties protect us from anyone trying to pass off horsesteak as beefsteak, cubic zirconium as diamonds, or catskin as mink! Luckily, the experts who feed and clothe us are extremely knowledgeable about the products they represent. And just in case, this law now adds another layer of consumer protection. Fans of fur can buy their products and wear them with complete confidence!

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All Authors Of This Article: | Teresa Platt |
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