The nation’s first fur ban has its first legal challenge, after West Hollywood retailer Mayfair House filed a lawsuit against the city that calls into question the legality of the ban.
Filed by attorneys with Kelley Drye & Warren LLP, the lawsuit calls the fur ban unlawful and void under the California Constitution, which states that the Legislature has exclusive authority to enact legislation that protects wildlife. According to the complaint, the ban also contradicts California statutes that permit the trade of fur products.
Further, the lawsuit alleges that the ban “runs afoul” of the Due Process Clause of the Fourth Amendment because its definition of fur makes its prohibitions vague, offering a lot of ambiguity in a complex situation.
“We feel that these are straightforward legal issues that are ready to be decided by a court, and yes, we feel that we will prevail,” said Larry Lasoff, of Kelley Drye & Warren.
He said there is a lot of confusion with regard to how the fur ban is being implemented, especially in terms of whether the West Hollywood City Council intended to exempt shearling and cow hair. If there is any enforcement mechanism, the ordinance must be clear, Lasoff said.
Mayfair House owner Johanna Judah said the retailer, which carries home and kitchen items as well as clothing, continues to sell UGG boots and Canada Goose jackets in spite of the ban. She said the business is one of the largest UGG retailers in Los Angeles.
“It’s a ridiculous situation to put your retailer in,” Judah said. “It’s a legal product. How can you tell me we can’t sell it?”
She stressed that Mayfair House employees love West Hollywood, but the ban has put the business in a precarious position. Judah said the jackets only have fur on the hoods, which is a necessity because faux fur can freeze, and UGG collections use shearling, which is a byproduct of the sheep being raised for meat. She added that the companies that supply the clothing have the “highest ethical standards.”
“To be caught up in this is just ludicrous,” Judah said.
She said the business “tried very hard” to have shearling removed from the ordinance, to no avail.
“It’s not so much about the fur anymore; it’s about the politics,” Judah said.
The small business owner raised a question that opponents of the fur ban have stressed before: why clothing and not furniture?
“It makes no sense. …If it’s leather, it’s leather,” Judah said. “Who cares if it’s on a couch or on a pair of shoes?”
She said the ban has not negatively impacted the store as of yet, though it has generated a lot of support for Mayfair House. However, Judah said her business — like several others — did not participate in the city’s economic impact survey for fear of retribution from animal advocates.
She mentioned Councilman John D’Amico, who proposed the ban. He received help during his council campaign from animal advocates who sought to enact a fur ban in West Hollywood.
“I would hope that the council members would act in the best interest of the people they’ve promised to serve, and not the people who are padding their campaigns,” Judah said. “We love the city. This is just a very unfortunate personal agenda that we were caught in the middle of.”
Representatives of D’Amico said he could not comment due to the ongoing litigation. Attempts to reach representatives of Fur Free West Hollywood were unsuccessful by deadline. However, the city did issue a statement.
“The city attorney’s office is reviewing the complaint and is not prepared to comment on the specific details in the lawsuit at this time,” the statement reads. “The city adopted the ordinance banning the sale of fur apparel products because the sale of these products in the city of West Hollywood is inconsistent with the city’s reputation as a cruelty free zone for animals, and the city’s goal of being a community that cares about animal welfare. The city’s position is that the ordinance is a constitutional means to further that goal.”
Lasoff said it is possible that the ordinance may be challenged by manufacturers and distributors from outside the city, as it could be a violation of the U.S. Commerce Clause, which allows Congress to regulate interstate commerce. It could also affect trade agreements, he said.
For information related to the fur ban, visit www.weho.org/index.aspx?page=1267.
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