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Activists push for enforcement of new fur sales ban

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Activists rally outside Saks Fifth Avenue on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2018. (Michael Goldberg/Direct Action Everywhere)

Animal rights activists rallied outside Saks Fifth Avenue near Union Square on Tuesday, demanding that the luxury department store prove it is in compliance with a new city law banning the sale of fur clothing.

Parts of the ban, passed unanimously by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on March 20, 2018, took effect on January 1.

Stores are now prohibited from selling fur ordered after that date, but an amendment added by former Supervisor Katy Tang, who also introduced the ban, gives them until January 2020 to clean out existing inventory.

The issue for The City now becomes how to enforce the ban, which affects some 50 retailers in downtown San Francisco, according to Robbie Silver, a spokesperson for the Union Square Business Improvement District. Silver said that “fur sales accounted for approximately $40 million per year from San Francisco’s economy.”

SEE RELATED: San Francisco becomes largest city in U.S. to ban fur sales

Per the law, the Department of Public Health will act as the enforcement agent for any violations, and may request invoices from retailers to prove that any fur clothing remaining for sale was obtained before March 20.

Violators have 24 hours to take corrective measures, or else face fees ranging from $500, for the first offense, up to $1,000.

A public health spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment by press time, but Tang said that she has been working with the department on enforcement.

Animal rights activists, however, are not waiting for The City to take action.

“Oftentimes with legislation that protects animals the problem is the enforcement. Even if a law exists there really is nobody that has the [manpower] to check all these stores,” said Cassie King, an organizer with grassroots animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere. King said the group’s practice is to “bring [violations] to the attention of as many people as possible. “

To that end, some four dozen organizers with Direct Action Everywhere gathered outside of Saks Fifth Avenue on New Year’s Day to demand that management there show documentation proving that fur clothing still on sale at the store was ordered before March 20.

“We found in Nordstrom’s those products had been completely removed. In other stores that still had fur products being sold, they were willing to produce the documentation that the furs were purchased before the ban was passed on March 20,” King said.

”At Saks Fifth Avenue, they basically hid from us, and said they needed to get a phone number for the right person to call….but never followed up with us,” added King.

According to King, Tuesday’s action was “day one.”

“We will follow up with places that still had fur products to sale, and especially with Saks because they are potentially violating the law right now,” she said.

A spokesperson for Saks Fifth Avenue did not return a request for comment by press time.

The law does not specifically state that the retailers must show invoices to anyone who requests them, but animal rights activists said that other stores inspected by the group have complied.

Matt Johnson, a spokesperson for Direct Action Everywhere, added that the advocates plan to file an official complaint with the department after they revisited the store on Wednesday and were again denied a conversation about whether or not the store is in compliance with the law.

“We had an individual who went back to Saks and he saw an estimated 90 fur items of real fur and he was asked not to take pictures and asked to leave,” said Johnson.

Silver, of the Union Square BID, said that he was unaware of Tuesday’s protest but added that the BID is “constantly working with businesses across all sectors on legislative issues that do come up.

“We encourage folks interested in learning more about the fur ban to read those deadlines,” he said.

Berkeley and West Hollywood also have fur bans in place, and the City of Los Angeles began the process in September.

California Assemblymember Laura Friedman proposed a statewide ban on new fur products earlier this month.

lwaxmann@sfexaminer.com

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