Since 1997, Humane Society International has investigated and documented the international trade in dog and cat fur. Our extensive, widely reported undercover investigation has spanned the globe from source countries such as China, the Philippines, and Thailand to retailers and wholesalers in the United States, Germany, Italy, France and Denmark. Our work to end the global trade in dog and cat fur led to a U.S. ban on products that use such fur. Italy, France, Denmark, Greece, Belgium, Switzerland and Australia also banned this trade, but it remains legal in Canada.
Our investigators exposed the international fur industry’s ugly secret: the widespread slaughter of companion animals—domestic dogs and cats—for the manufacture of clothing, accessories, and trinkets. Investigators witnessed firsthand the brutal slaughter of domestic dogs and cats in China and other Asian nations. What we found shocked people. Many of these animals are raised in cold, unsanitary breeding compounds. Some are strays. Others are obviously pets who were most likely stolen.
Millions of dogs and cats are killed annually for their fur. Investigators found stores of 50,000 to 100,000 pelts at factories in Asia. Usually 10 to 12 adult dogs are killed to manufacture each coat; even more if puppy fur is used. One cat fur coat requires the killing of up to 24 felines. Fur-covered figurines may contain the pieces of pelts of several animals, or may just be the pelt of one unlucky victim. The slaughter of these animals is violent and pitiless. Cats are strangled inside their cages as other cats look on. Dogs are noosed about the neck with metal wires, and then slashed across the groin. The wire noose cuts into their throats as they struggle in pain before finally losing consciousness.
In Harbin, China, HSI investigators documented a German shepherd still blinking and conscious as he was being skinned. At a dog farm several hours north of Harbin investigators documented dead dogs hanging from hooks as others, still alive, awaited their fate inside the same cold room.
Dog and cat fur is marketed and sold to Europe and North America. Dogs and cats may be killed in one country and processed in another, and the finished products sold anywhere in the world. The primary use of dog and cat fur is not for full-length fur coats, but for fur-trim parkas, gloves, hats, toys, and other accessories. Fur-covered animal figurines also frequently use dog and cat fur—an estimated 20 percent of all the figurines made, the balance coming from rabbits and goats.
In Canada, there are no labeling requirements for fur garments. Thus, it is entirely possible for cat and dog fur to be sold in this country, without anyone finding out. And while some fur is voluntarily labeled in Canada, this slaughter is so unconscionable that the industry has tried to obscure the truth with misleading labels. With rare exceptions, dog and cat products are not labeled as such.
Fur manufacturers in China told HSI investigators they would sew any label onto dog and cat garments to make them more marketable.
Export documentation for dog and cat fur figurines usually identifies the contents as rabbit fur. When asked, most retailers will support this belief, since they’ve been told that the fur on figurines comes from rabbits, and that it is a byproduct of the food industry in China.
Bans on cat and dog fur
After learning of the HSI investigation, the U.S. Congress passed the Dog and Cat Protection Act of 2000; a European Union ban on imports and exports of cat and dog fur went into effect on January 1, 2009.
It is legal to import cat and dog fur into Canada, and these products have already been found in North America. With global markets for cat and dog fur closing, Canada may become an increasingly tempting market for producers. According to Industry Canada, the Canadian fur and retail industry imported $5 million in animal pelts and $28 million in fur trimmed apparel from China in 2004. Despite the distinct possibility that many of these imported furs are from dogs and cats, the government has so far been reluctant to prohibit these imports.
Read the latest news about HSI’s work on fur issues around the world.