Humane Society Wants Government to Crack Down on Fur Mislabeling

March 14, 2007 — -- Today, the Federal Trade Commission is considering a petition from the Humane Society of the United States that asks for fines or even criminal charges against major designers that mislabel their clothing.

Last month, "Good Morning America" reported on a Humane Society investigation that had found dog fur used on winter coats advertised as faux fur or labeled "raccoon fur."

It is illegal to import dog or cat fur, yet the Humane Society of the United States says it found top designers and stores doing just that.

The controversial fur is used as trim around the collars and on hoods of popular winter coats.

The Humane Society says it originally found more than 30 retailers and designers advertising the fur as faux fur or raccoon fur. The group says lab tests showed that the fur actually had come from dogs, wolves and another member of the canine family called a raccoon dog.

"The Humane Society of the United States filed this petition with the FTC asking them to investigate this issue and take swift action against the designers and retailers named in the petition," said the group's Kristin Leppert.

Several stores pulled the coats when the Humane Society raised the issue. Designer Andrew Marc provided "GMA" with a supplier invoice and said its coats contained "Finn raccoon fur," not dog fur.

Top animal experts tell ABC News that the trouble is a Finn raccoon and a raccoon dog are the same exact animal -- a dog with raccoonlike markings.

The animals are mostly bred in Finland and China. ABC News asked Andrew Marc for further comment and never heard back.

"Buying fur out of China, there is no guarantee what you are going to get," Leppert said. "The consumer can have zero confidence."

The Humane Society went undercover and says it also found stores calling fur coats faux when they were actually real.

Retailers Say They've Been Deceived

So how do you determine whether fur trim is real or fake?

"When you touch this fur, it's soft, it moves around easily between your fingertips," Leppert said.

If the fur is real, you will see the animal's whitish skin when you pull the fibers aside. If it's faux fur, you'll see a webbed backing instead.

If you want to avoid all risk, the Humane Society says skip buying this style of coat altogether.

Several retailers and designers said they were stunned by the Humane Society's findings.

They said their own suppliers had misled them, and scrambled to stop selling the coats in question.

One company endorsed truth in labeling and said, "We don't want to have to guess about what types of products we are using, and consumers shouldn't have to guess either."

How did these questionable coats end up in the United States in the first place? It's just fur trim, and fur valued at less than $150 doesn't have to be labeled.

The FTC did not respond to a query from "GMA" about what action, if any, it might take on this issue.

In the meantime, Rep. Jim Moran of Virginia is working on legislation to close the loophole that allows these fur-trimmed coats to come into the United States so easily.

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