Your Fur Coat — Fake Or Fido?

A GOOD DOG by Jon Katz Photos by Peter Hanks

That fur trim on your jacket that you think is fake? It might be dog hair.

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 industry-wide 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.
  • Tucker Reals

    Tucker Reals is the CBSNews.com foreign editor, based at the CBS News London bureau.

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