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Tests Reveal Dog, Cat Fur Products Are Toxic

by Patricia Collier

Though condemned by numerous animal rights groups, dog and cat fur is still widely sought and traded throughout the world. Intensive fur farms, in which dogs and cats are bred, raised and slaughtered in horrific conditions, still operate in a number of countries; and efforts to ban the trade have so far proven largely unsuccessful.

But scientists are now saying products made from the furs may not be safe for humans - and the technical angle may do more to stop the fur trading than law enforcement agencies have been able to accomplish so far.

About 12 dogs or 24 cats are killed to make one coat, even more if puppies or kittens are used. Dog and cat fur is used for coats, jackets, hats, gloves, shoes, blankets, stuffed animals, even children's toys. Activists say protests about the cruelty of the trade haven't helped to abate the activity.

In May the BBC reported seeing evidence - including a videotaped interview with a Belgian cat fur farmer - which proved cats were being intensively farmed for their skins in the European Union.

And opponents of the trade estimate more than two million cats and dogs are slaughtered every year to support the main market for the products - in China.

Despite the apparent worldwide apathy about the suffering of farmed cats and dogs, a new, damning piece of scientific evidence about the toxicity of products made from their fur may be what finally ends the cruelty, authorities said.

Tests conducted recently by an independent laboratory found that products made from dog and cat fur contain extremely high levels of chromium, levels which exceed allowable safety limits. Toxic and carcinogenic chemicals are introduced onto the products during the tanning process.

Nicola Beynon of Humane Society International said her organization has tested products made from dog and cat fur on sale in Australia.

"We have found that they've tested at extremely high levels of chromium," Beynon said, "In fact, a jacket made of German Shepherd fur tested positive for chromium levels 130 times the allowable level."

Also tested was a small cat-shaped toy for children, made of feline fur. It tested 30 times higher than the safe level.

Mariann Lloyd-Smith, with the National Toxics Network, said her biggest fear would be for small children.

"I think as any parent knows, all toddlers test things by putting [them] into their mouth and sucking, and certainly chromium can be absorbed into the body, either through ingestion or through breathing in the dust," Lloyd-Smith said. "And in this case I would be very concerned about toddlers sucking on the fur of these toys with those sort of levels."

Dog and cat fur trading has been banned in the United States since 2000 and Denmark and Italy have since followed suit. There is no such ban in Australia, although the government said the issue is "high priority."

According to Beynon, in countries where the animal cruelty aspect does not sway the demand, other reasons must be introduced to enact a permanent ban against trading of dog and cat furs.

"If animal cruelty isn't a good enough reason to ban, if consumer fraud isn't a good enough reason to ban, then surely public safety is a very good reason, particularly when you're talking about products that are children's toys," Beynon said.

2003 Animal News Center, Inc.