Designer coats made from dog fur

By KASIE HUNT, Associated Press Writer Fri Feb 23, 9:41 AM ET

WASHINGTON - That fur trim on your jacket that you think is fake? Tell it to Fido. An animal advocacy group says its investigation has turned up coats — some with designer labels, some at higher-end retailers — with fur from man's best friend. Some retailers were set scrambling to pull the coats from shelves, take them off Web sites and even offer refunds to consumers.

The Humane Society of the United States said it purchased coats from reputable outlets, such as upscale Nordstrom, with designer labels — Andrew Marc, Tommy Hilfiger, for example — and found them trimmed with fur from domestic dogs, even though the fur was advertised as fake.

"It's an industrywide deception," said Kristin Leppert, the head of the Human Society's anti-fur campaign.

The investigation began after the society got a tip from a consumer who bought a coat with trim labeled as faux fur that felt real. Leppert and her team began buying coats from popular retailers and then had the coats tested by mass spectrometry, which measures the mass and sequence of proteins, to determine what species of animal the fur came from.

Of the 25 coats tested, 24 were mislabeled or misadvertised.

Three coats — from Tommy Hilfiger's Web site ShopTommy.com, Nordstrom.com and a coat from Andrew Marc's MARC New York line sold on Bluefly.com — contained fur from domesticated dogs. The others had fur from raccoon dogs — a canine species native to Asia — or, in one case, wolves. The single correctly labeled coat was trimmed with coyote fur, but it was advertised as fake.

Most of the fur came from China.

In response to the Humane Society's investigation, Tommy Hilfiger stopped selling the fur-trimmed garment and said it was looking into the matter. "We were quite concerned to hear of this finding," said spokeswoman Wendi Kopsick.

Nordstrom called the 62 consumers who had purchased vests with dog fur trim to give them the opportunity to return the vests "because we would never want to deceive our customers in any way," Nordstrom spokeswoman Brooke White said. She said Nordstrom no longer buys fur trim products from the vendor, who had marketed the vests as faux fur.

Charles Jayson, chief executive of Andrew Marc, disputed the Humane Society and insisted in a statement that all fur on his coats labeled as raccoon contains "only farm-bred raccoon fur from Finland, and our items labeled 'faux fur' are a 100 percent synthetic fabric."

Importing domestic dog and cat fur was outlawed in 2000. Intentionally importing and selling dog fur is a federal crime punishable by a $10,000 fine for each violation. Michael Markarian, executive vice president of the Humane Society, said his group had contacted all the retailers and designers selling mislabeled coats or coats with dog fur.

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

"This is an animal that is routinely killed by stomping them, or beating them, or skinning them alive," Markarian said. Video produced by Swiss Animal Protection and posted on the Internet shows raccoon dogs clubbed or slammed on the ground and some writhing, gasping and blinking as they are skinned alive.

The discovery of domestic dog fur is the latest twist in the investigation that ensnared retail giants Macy's and J.C. Penney late last year. Both of those retailers were discovered selling coats with raccoon dog fur labeled as raccoon.

J.C. Penney initially removed the offending garments from its stores around Christmas — but eventually it had employees scratch out the 'raccoon' label with black magic marker and put the coats back on the shelves. Macy's immediately pulled the items from its shelves.

Burlington Coat Factory also pulled some coats with mislabeled fur from their shelves. Rap artist Sean "Diddy" Combs stopped producing and selling coats from his Sean John line that had raccoon dog fur, and rapper Jay-Z pulled coats with raccoon dog from his Rocawear label.

Mislabeling fur is a misdemeanor punishable by a $5,000 fine or a year in prison. Fur valued at less than $150 is not required to be labeled.

A bill introduced by Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Mike Ferguson, R-N.J., would close that loophole by requiring labels for all fur regardless of its value. It also would ban fur from raccoon dogs.

"Americans don't want Lassie turned into a fur coat," Moran said. "In the U.S., we treat cats and dogs as pets, not trimmings for the latest fashion wear."

Other retailers the Humane Society said sold mislabeled raccoon dog fur included Lord & Taylor, BergdorfGoodman.com and Neiman Marcus.com. Designers whose clothes were mismarked included Donna Karan's DKNY and Michael Kors. A coat from Oscar de la Renta advertised as raccoon had raccoon dog fur.

Neiman Marcus, which owns Bergdorf Goodman, said it removed Bogner and Andrew Marc coats from its Web sites. Michael Kors said it was investigating, and a DKNY spokeswoman said the label was unaware that raccoon dog fur had been used.

Donna Karan's executive vice president for global marketing and communications, Patti Cohen, said, "While it is not illegal to use this type of fur, we have taken measures to ensure that it is never again used for any of our products."

A spokeswoman for Oscar de la Renta declined to comment.

Click here for a list of companies/designers found to have garments made from dog fur:


Virginia Groups Collaborate to Protect Pets in Emergencies

VDEM News Release

FOR RELEASE AT WILL -- Feb. 21, 2007

Richmond, Va. - Virginia emergency managers, veterinarians and animal advocacy groups have developed a set of guidelines to provide assistance to pet owners and pet-friendly shelters during an evacuation. The organizations will build and maintain databases of pet-friendly shelters, services, supplies and trained volunteers to call upon during an emergency.

A memorandum of understanding, finalized in January, sets forth specific responsibilities for five organizations during an emergency declared by the governor. Representatives from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies will help to identify pet-friendly facilities and train volunteers to coordinate assistance to those shelters during disasters.

"During Hurricane Katrina thousands of people left their pets behind or did not evacuate in order to stay with their pets," said Dr. Richard Wilkes, state veterinarian. "For many people, the safety of their pets is just as important as their own."

In addition, the VVMA will take the lead role in establishing a State Animal Response Team, a tax-exempt corporation that will explore additional funding for training and equipment through grants and corporate sponsorships.

"Many pet owners don't want to leave their pets during an evacuation," said Michael Cline, state coordinator for emergency management. "This MOU is an important step in making sure that pet owners and their pets have a place to go during a crisis."

Representatives of the five groups will meet quarterly to evaluate the progress of implementation and to revise and develop new plans or goals as appropriate.

Amazing Grace!

The movie opens this Friday.

Click above link to see the video clip that tells the story behind the song.


ARNO on Inside Edition

Although the city of New Orleans is only half it's pre-Katrina population, the number of dogs has remained high. As some New Orleans homes lie empty and abandoned, they are still providing shelter for many four-legged victims of the disaster.

Even 18 months after Katrina, many pets who were separated from their owners by the storm, are now living wild.

Pet-lover Robin Beaulieu runs an organization called Animal Rescue New Orleans. She spends her days and often her nights too, touring the city in her converted school bus, rounding up strays, sometimes using humane traps to catch them. Often the dogs are mangy and scared.

"I would say several thousand former pets are on the streets still today," Robin told INSIDE EDITION.

Robin worries over the fate of pets that have had to live wild in the 18 months since Katrina. "It's very difficult for a domesticated animal to fend for itself," Robin said.

One reason former pets have a hard time is because where there are no people, there's no thrown-away food to scavenge. As a substitute, the packs of now-wild dogs often attack and eat rats, and even cats.

The former pets are often purebred dogs, and stick out amongst the strays.

Tina Bernard is animal control officer for one New Orleans parish and says owners are still coming in to her shelter trying to find the pets they lost during the chaos of Katrina. She can only describe the situation as "heartbreaking."

Volunteers like Pam Leavy place food wherever there's a sighting of strays, but their efforts are often in vein.

"I've seen as time goes on, there are less and less dogs out, and it's not because we're getting them, it's because they just weren't making it," Pam said.

For more information, contact:

Animal Rescue New Orleans
271 Plauche Street
New Orleans, LA 70123
Voicemail: 504-571-1900