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A Rego Park company will have to pay a hefty fine after an investigation found that the firm advertised and sold products containing dog fur, a federal crime, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Following a two-year investigation that involved purchasing and testing numerous products, The Humane Society of the United States revealed that Unique Product Enterprises had violated the Dog and Cat Protection Act of 2000, which bans the import and interstate advertisement and sale of items made from dog and cat fur.
Penalties for this act include a $10,000 fine per violation, according to U.S. Customs.
After finding that dogs had been killed to make the products, the Humane Society referred the matter to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which launched its own investigation that resulted in the removal of advertisements for the products from the Russian company’s website.
Pierre Grzybowski, policy and enforcement manager for the Human Society’s Fur-Free Campaign, said the society got the tip about the website’s practices from a Russian-speaking Queens woman, who saw the products and contacted the animal rights group.
“She saw the advertisement in a Russian-language magazine and she was rightly outraged,” said Grzybowski. “After we got the tip, we collected evidence and eventually passed it along to law enforcement. We put together a strong enough case with as much evidence as we could so that law enforcement would take immediate action on it.”
According to Grzybowski, the Humane Society purchased four items for its investigation: a blanket, a vest, a pair of gloves and a belt. Independent laboratory analysis determined the fur contained in the products was “consistent with having originated from a domestic dog.”
One product contained a manufacturing label with Chinese characters, indicating a company in western China made the product. Grzybowski cautioned people to understand the deadly difference between dog hair and dog fur.
“This wasn’t dog hair that was sheered of the dog — this is dog fur with the skin. These animals were skinned for their pelts and that is not a humane practice,” he said. “Much of the domestic dog fur in the world market comes from China, where conditions are brutal — animals beaten, crammed into tiny cages and even skinned alive.”
When the number on the website was called, a woman answered and said it was now a “private number and the website is shut down.” When told the website was still up and running, the woman said the company now sells “new products,” but would not comment on the investigation or what other products were sold in the past.
Grzybowski said what concerns the Humane Society the most is how much fur is being sold as something else. He said this company was brazen and upfront about what it was selling, but other companies might not be so truthful.
“How many customers are being duped by false labeling and buying dog when they think they are buying coyote or another animal?” he asked.
He urges anyone with tips on companies that might be selling dog fur to contact the Humane Society via its Facebook page at facebook.com/HSUSFurFree.
Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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