Change for WeHo’s Fur Ban

The city of West Hollywood, Calif., approved America’s only municipal fur ban in 2013, and the ban survived a challenge in federal court in 2014. However, the final word has not been said on the law. The West Hollywood City Council unanimously passed an amendment to the ban on Aug. 17.

West Hollywood’s municipal code continues to prohibit the sales, import, export or trade of fur products within the city limits of the 1.89-square-mile municipality. But the City Council amended the law. It changed some language in the law and also added an exemption.

The language change strengthens the prohibition on display of fur goods at retailers, said John D’Amico, a West Hollywood citycouncilmember. The unanimous vote was crucial, too, he said. “For the first time, the entire council stood up and voted unanimously to uphold the fur ban,” D’Amico said.

The exemption was added so that the law would not conflict with California’s Fish and Game code. The state law allows for the display and sale of fur lawfully taken by people with a state trapping license. A Superior Court judge had previously ruled that West Hollywood’s ban conflicted with California’s Fish and Game code. The council added the exemption so its fur ban would not clash with state law.

West Hollywood’s fur ban had previously given exemptions to sales and displays of fur preserved through taxidermy, nonprofits selling fur products as well as and vintage and pawn shops selling used fur products. With the new amendment, fur lawfully trapped under state law could be sold in West Hollywood.

David Fink, an attorney who has been working on a pending suit against the fur ban in Los Angeles Superior Court, said the amendment’s exemptions put a lot of holes in the ban.

“The exemptions written into the new fur-ban ordinance now allow a wide array of fur products to be sold in West Hollywood apparel stores and will make it virtually impossible to enforce the ordinance against non-exempt fur products,” Fink said. He serves as the legal representation for West Hollywood retailer Mayfair House in its suit, which claims that the ban violates the U.S. and California constitutions.

The ban continues to make arbitrary selection of what retailers can sell, said Genevieve Morrill, president of West Hollywood’s Chamber of Commerce. Under the amendment, retailers can sell fur from an animal that was legally taken under state law but not fur from other sources.

“The amended ordinance means that local retailers can sell mink coats but not UGG boots.

“It makes no sense,” Morrill said.

The City of West Hollywood has long cultivated a reputation of being something of an animal-rights city. In 1990, West Hollywood declared itself a “cruelty-free zone” for animals.
In 2014 decision on Mayfair’s suit against the city, Chief Judge George H. King of the United States District Court for the Central District of California wrote in his opinion that prohibiting sales of new fur items was a “legitimate” step in the city’s mission to be a cruelty-free zone for animals. Mayfair’s lawyers filed the suit in Los Angeles Superior Court.