Two members of Congress yesterday announced legislation that would ban sales and importation of furs made from the pelts of dogs and cats, a practice exposed last year in an undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States.
Sen. William V. Roth Jr. (R-Del.) and Rep. Gerald D. Kleczka (D-Wis.) said at a news conference that they were shocked to hear that an estimated 2 million dogs and cats are slaughtered for fur each year and that items made from that fur end up in U.S. stores.
"The Dog and Cat Protection Act of 1999," introduced in the House and Senate, would prohibit the sale, manufacture, transportation and distribution in the United States of items made from dog or cat fur. Under the bill, each violation could result in a fine of as much as $25,000 and as much as a year in prison.
"With this legislation, our message will be clear: No matter where in the world merchandise is made, there will be no legitimate market for it here -- not in the United States," Roth said. "This is important legislation. It will provide uniformity of regulations and prevent conflict between states."
Kleczka called the dog and cat fur trade "an outrage," and he said that "we must do our part to stop it."
The practice came to light last year when a story in The Washington Post disclosed the Humane Society's findings. Humane Society investigators traced the fur trade to sources in China and the Philippines and documented brutal animal slaughters.
"Twenty years of police work did not prepare me for what I saw in China," said Richard Swain, a former Montgomery County police official and the Humane Society's lead investigator. "The suffering of dogs and cats who are killed for their fur was horrible to witness and is something that I will never forget."
The group found coats trimmed with dog fur at a Burlington Coat Factory store in the Washington area. Burlington officials said they had been duped and cut ties with one of their suppliers, then donated $100,000 to the Humane Society and helped its push for federal legislation.
The Humane Society said major Chinese exporters were exploiting loopholes in U.S. law, which does not require labeling of any fur product valued at less than $150.
"The current law does nothing to stop the sale of these deplorable products," Kleczka said. "We should end this inhumane treatment of dogs and cats once and for all."