Washington—While news over the weekend tended to dwell on the tax cuts, strategic arms treaty and immigration issues, President Obama signed Saturday a bill that closes a federal loop that had allowed for animal fur garments and accessories under $150 to go unlabeled.
The legislation closes a loophole in the Fur Products Labeling Act, originally passed by Congress in 1951, that exempted apparel, footwear and accessories valued at $150 or less from carrying identifying labels like most fur merchandise must carry. However, The Truth in Fur Labeling Act (H.R. 2480), which passed the House of Representatives in July and the Senate in early December, will now requires all manufacturers of apparel, footwear and accessories containing animal fur to “disclosing the name of the species, the manufacturer, the country of origin and other pertinent information for consumers.”
Label Law Covers All Fur Accessories (Except Handbags)
The law, which goes into effect 90 days from December 18, would include all accessories categories except fur handbags which still are exempt since law refers to “garments” as “wearing apparel” meaning anything worn on, and covers, a person’s body (including hats, gloves, scarves, belts, jewelry and footwear).
The new label requirements were backed by a coalition of groups including the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), consumer organizations, designers, and retailers had backed the legislation which had bipartisan support.
The HSUS and consumer groups urged government to close the loophole in fur label laws after an HSUS investigation found raccoon dog fur had been used as trim on jackets purchased from retailers across the country. When tested for content, not a single one of the jackets properly identified the animal in advertising or labeling, instead calling it such things as faux fur, raccoon, or simply not labeling it at all.
“By signing this legislation, President Obama has given consumers who choose to avoid real animal fur for moral reasons a valuable tool,” said Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and ceo. “The Truth in Fur Labeling Act will protect shoppers by requiring all garments containing animal fur to be accurately labeled.”
Under FTC Jurisdiction
The FTC will now review and update the Fur Products Name Guide to ensure species names on labels are consistent and accurate. Like it already does for higher priced fur items, the FTC will be responsible for enforcement and penalties for violating the new law. If the FTC finds someone in violation, the matter would be turned over to the Attorney General. Violators would be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction could be fined up to $5,000 and a one-year prison sentence.
The HSUS and HSLF also expressed thanks to the sponsors of this legislation—Sens.Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, Susan Collins, R-Maine, and David Vitter, R-Louisiana., and Reps. Jim Moran, D-Virginia., Mary Bono Mack, R-California, and Ed Whitfield, R-Kentucky—“for their leadership on this critical animal welfare and consumer protection issue, and to House and Senate leaders for working to bring the bill over the finish line in Congress.”
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