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The Fur Flies

The next time you buy a coat with fur on it, check the label and ask questions. You may not be getting what you think.

In fact, animals loved as pets in the United States are now turning up by the hundreds of thousands on garments made in China and exported worldwide, according to Humane Society investigator Richard Swain, who first ran across pelts like these in Europe.

In a country where dogs and cats have always been considered food, the Chinese have recently begun slaughtering as many as 2 million a year for their skins and fur as well, Swain estimated. And the procedure is particularly gruesome.

"Â…And before they're even done bleeding out, you can still see the breath coming out of the dog's mouth - they start to skin the animal," Swain said.

Burlington Coat Factory said Tuesday it had removed 480 coats found to have dog fur on them and blamed a vendor for the problem. Even the best of retailers can be fooled, Swain said.

"It is very, very difficult in trim like that - very difficult to distinguish what kind of fur it is," said Swain.

But some fur is not difficult to figure out at all. It could be Sheltie or Collie or Golden Retriever.

No law prohibits the import of dog and cat fur into the United States, so it's hard to say how much may have arrived here. But here's one clue: manufacturers must declare what type of fur they used in a garment if its value is more than $150. If you paid less, you might be wise to ask.

Reported by Jim Stewart
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