On October 12, 2019, California became the first state in the country to ban the sale of products containing exotic animal skins and furs. Assembly Bills (AB) 1260 and 44 expand California's pre-existing laws by prohibiting the manufacture, import, or sale of alligator, crocodile, and fur products.
Catch Ya Later, Alligator
Effective on January 1, 2020, California Penal Code Section 653o will make it illegal to import into California for commercial purposes, to possess with intent to sell, or to sell within the state, the dead body, or any part or product thereof, of a crocodile or alligator. As amended by AB 1260, the Section will also criminalize the import and sale of other exotic skins, such as iguana, skink, caiman, and various lizards, beginning on January 1, 2022. Violators of Section 653o will be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a $1,000 - $5,000 fine and/or up to six months imprisonment in county jail. Existing inventories of these animal products are not addressed by either Section 653o or AB 1260.
Since 1970, Penal Code Section 653o has prohibited the sale of deceased polar bear, leopard, ocelot, tiger, cheetah, jaguar, sable antelope, wolf, zebra, whale, cobra, python, sea turtle, colobus monkey, kangaroo, vicuna, sea otter, free-roaming feral horse, dolphin or porpoise, Spanish lynx, or elephant, or any part thereof.
Up until 2006, Section 653o included a ban on the sale of alligator and crocodile parts. In 2006, Governor Schwarzenegger signed legislation that lifted the ban as it applied to the sale of alligator and crocodile parts. The 2006 legislation contained a sunset clause, through which the prohibition was set to go back into effect on January 1, 2015. However, as the ban was about to be reinstituted, Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 2075 into law, further postponing reinstatement until 2020. As originally drafted, Assembly Bill 2075 would have extended the sunset clause until 2025, but Senate amendments shortened the extension by five years, to 2020.
In 2019, a number of other bills sought to extend the sunset clause (for the third time) or repeal Section 653o, but all were tabled or killed by the California Legislature. Assembly Bill 1561 would have delayed reinstatement of the prohibition against selling alligator and crocodile parts until January 1, 2021, but was re-referred to Committee on September 9, 2019. Assembly Bill 527, which sought to extend the sunset clause until January 1, 2030, died in Appropriations on May 1, 2019.
So Long, Fur-well
California is also the first state in the nation to ban fur sales. AB 44, which was also signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on October 12, 2019, prohibits the manufacture, sale, and distribution of fur products, such as clothing, shoes, and handbags, within California. AB 44 will go into effect on January 1, 2023.
The Bill defines fur and fur products broadly but exempts:
- A dog or cat fur product
- Cowhide, deerskin, sheepskin, or goatskin
- Animal pelts or skins 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)
- Used fur products
- Fur used for religious or Native American traditional tribal, cultural, or spiritual purposes
Those who contravene the ban will be subject to civil penalties of $500 for the first violation and $750 or $1,000 for subsequent violations committed within the same year.
AB 44 does not address existing inventories of fur products.
California's ban on fur sales follows the lead of several cities within the state. West Hollywood was the first city to pass such a ban in 2013. Berkeley followed suit in 2017, followed by San Francisco and Los Angeles in March and September, 2018, respectively. Elsewhere around the country, Hawaii introduced S.B. No. 1350 in January 2019 to "prohibit the manufacture or sale of certain animal fur products in the state and the shipment or transport of certain fur products into the state for sale or distribution." The New York City Council also held hearings on a proposed fur ban in May 2019.
California's fur ban is in line with the policies of numerous retailers, spanning the scope from department stores to high-end luxury houses. In September, Prada announced that it would stop using fur in its collections starting with the spring/summer 2020 women's ready-to-wear lines. On October 21, 2019, Macy's announced that it will stop selling fur products by the end of fiscal year 2020. Other brands and retailers that do not sell fur products include Bottega Veneta, Burberry, Giorgio Armani, Gucci, Stella McCartney, Versace, Farfetch, Net-a-Porter, Selfridges, and The Outnet.
With the alligator ban taking effect in less than two months, retailers who sell animal products would be wise to consult counsel experienced in this area to make sure they are prepared to comply.