October 20, 2019

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No Future for Fur in the Golden State?

UPDATE:  On October 12, 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 44 and Governor Newsom stated in social media: “I just signed #AB44 — one of the strongest animal rights laws in US History — making California the first state in the nation to ban new fur sales.” The ban goes into effect in 2023 and fur retailers have more than two years to sell any furs they still have in their inventory.  After the law goes into effect, manufacturers and retailers will face fines of $500 to $1,000 for every violation of the law.

Before the 1849 California Gold Rush, American, English and Russian fur hunters were drawn to Spanish (and then Mexican) California in a California Fur Rush, to exploit its enormous fur resources. Before 1825, these Europeans were drawn to the northern and central California coast to harvest southern sea otters and fur seals, and then to the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta to harvest beaver, river otters, marten, fisher, mink, gray fox, weasels, and harbor seals. It has been said that California’s early fur trade, more than any other single factor, that opened up the West to world trade.

Today, fur is banned in four municipalities of California: San Francisco, Berkeley, West Hollywood and Los Angeles. Assembly Bill 44, which was presented to Governor Gavin Newsom at 3:30 p.m. on September 20, 2019, would make it unlawful to sell, offer for sale, display for sale, trade, or otherwise distribute for monetary or nonmonetary consideration any fur product, effective on January 1, 2023. It is unclear at this time whether or not Governor Newsome will sign the bill.

If enacted, the law would be the first state law banning fur sales and manufacturing. The law and does not apply to: (1) used fur products; (2) a fur product used for religious purposes; (3) a fur product used for traditional tribal, cultural or spiritual purposes by a member of a federally recognized Native American tribe or a non-federally recognized California Native American tribe; or (4) any activity expressly authorized by federal law. Fur products do not include dog or cat fur products, an animal skin that is converted into leather, cowhide with hair attached, deerskin, sheepskin or goatskin with hair attached, the pelt or skin of an animal preserved through taxidermy, a product made pursuant to Fish and Game Code Sections 3087 (taxidermy) or 4303 (deer skins or hides donated for use by veterans for rehabilitation purposes). The law also does not prevent the offering for sale and re-sale of previously owned furs. Under the proposed law, it would be illegal to offer for sale or advertise fur within California. The law also makes it unlawful to sell or purchase a bird or mammal found in the wild in California or to sell or purchase complete antlers, whole heads with antlers, antlers mounted for display or antlers in velvet, except as authorized Fish and Game Code Section 3087.

Copyright © 2019, Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP.

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About this Author

Theodore Max, Attorney, Sheppard Mullin, Entertainment, Technology, Advertising
Member

Theodore C. Max is a member of the Entertainment, Technology and Advertising and Intellectual Property Practice Groups in the New York office, where he focuses on counseling clients on intellectual property issues and litigation. He is co-leader of the firm's Fashion and Apparel team. Mr. Max combines his skill and experience as a trial attorney with his knowledge of copyright, trademark and intellectual property law in servicing the firm's diverse clientele.

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