By  on November 22, 2011

Tiny West Hollywood has taken a big stand against fur.

The West Hollywood City Council, which represents a population of less than 35,000 people living between Beverly Hills and Hollywood, last week approved the nation’s first ban on fur apparel sales in a 3-to-1 vote. Although the city is small, it is home to some of Southern California’s ritziest retail real estate along Robertson Boulevard, Sunset Boulevard and Melrose Avenue, where stores such as Kitson, Balenciaga, Alberta Ferretti, H. Lorenzo, Maxfield, Arcade and Beckley will have to rid their racks of fur items by Sept. 21, 2013 unless a planned lawsuit to halt the fur ban prevails.

West Hollywood’s ordinance stopping fur apparel sales covers any article containing fur found on the body, including clothes, belts, hats, shoes, gloves and scarves. The term “fur” broadly applies to animal skins with hair such as mink, shearling, fox, chinchilla, rabbit, seal and bear, but doesn’t apply to leather. Furniture is exempted from the ordinance, as is fur apparel sold by vintage stores, private parties and nonprofit groups. After the ban’s enactment, the penalties for selling fur apparel products will be warnings and fines.

The controversial eradication of fur apparel is the latest in unparalleled efforts by West Hollywood to pass animal-friendly policies. The city was also the first in North America to outlaw the de-clawing of cats in 2003, a measure that has since been adopted by at least seven other California cities. As has been the case with de-clawing, the fear among retailers and business trade groups is that more jurisdictions will follow West Hollywood’s lead on the fur issue.

But opposition to the fur ban is not going away with its passage. The Fur Information Council of America, a fur industry association based in West Hollywood, announced it has put together a coalition of businesses, property owners and additional stakeholders to contest the ban under both state and federal law. “This is not, by any means, over,” stated Keith Kaplan, FICA’s executive director, before adding, “The opposition to this ordinance has been so strong and the economic cost so high that I find it difficult to understand why the city would now invite a costly legal challenge.”

In an economic study commissioned by FICA and conducted by Horizon Consumer Science to study the impact of the fur ban, it was found that 46 percent of West Hollywood fashion retailers carry some type of fur item using a narrower definition of fur than the approved ordinance. It is estimated that fur apparel sales amount to more than $2 million annually at West Hollywood retailers. The council has asked for an alternative economic analysis of the fur ban that is expected to be completed in May.

In letters to West Hollywood Mayor John Duran, several West Hollywood retailers have expressed outrage about the fur ban. “We believe that the right to exercise personal choices extends to the choice to buy, wear and sell fur,” wrote Deirdre Wheaton, general manager at Maxfield. She continued, “When the city council takes the freedom of the market away from retailers and their clients, it seems to beg the question — who will be affected next?” Ted Stafford, president of real estate firm Stafford Commercial, believes the fur ban could scare stores away from West Hollywood. “This fur ban seems to pose a potential threat to some of our most prominent businesses,” he wrote.

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