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Retailer sues West Hollywood over ban on fur apparel

Crime, Law and JusticeLaws and LegislationJustice SystemAEGMichael Jackson

A West Hollywood retailer filed suit Thursday against the city over its first-in-the-nation ban on fur apparel.

In the filing, Mayfair House, a specialty clothing and accessory store on Beverly Boulevard, said that the city overstepped its authority in banning fur apparel sales and that such trade should be regulated by state authorities.

The ban, Mayfair House said in the five-count complaint, violates the state and U.S. constitutions.

“It is crystal clear that California’s constitution grants the state Legislature the only authority to enact legislation relating to the protection of wildlife, including the exclusive power to pass laws regulating the market for products of wildlife, such as fur,” Michael O’Connor, an attorney for the store, said in a statement.

The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in downtown Los Angeles, seeks to have the city stop enforcing or threatening to enforce the ban.

After two years of debate, the ban on fur apparel took effect Saturday, to the chagrin of numerous retailers.

The ban applies only to “wearing apparel.” It applies to shoes, hats and gloves but not pocketbooks or purses. It also includes shearling, a sheepskin or lambskin pelt that has gone through limited shearing. Popular Ugg boots that contain shearling are banned. Fur blankets are not banned. But sleeved blankets containing fur -- and meant to be worn -- are.

Leather is not banned, and secondhand stores selling used fur products are not affected. Though the city is home to numerous interior-design businesses as well as the Pacific Design Center, the ban does not apply to the sale of fur furniture or other non-wearable items.

Mayor Pro Tem John D’Amico, who introduced the ban, told The Times last week that he was confident the ordinance would hold up against a lawsuit.

“I still maintain that it’s an exceptional ordinance that the city attorney wrote knowing there was a threat of lawsuit,” D’Amico said. He added that the ordinance was “defensible and the city will stand behind it.”

City Atty. Michael Jenkins is still reviewing the lawsuit, West Hollywood officials said.

Some merchants, including the Goldsmith & Klein fashion boutique, cited the ban as a reason for closing their shops or relocating. Other shops with multiple locations simply moved their fur items to their other stores outside city limits.

“The ordinance is an ill-considered and illegal law that is harmful to the city, its consumer citizens and business residents,” Johanna Judah, owner of Mayfair House, said in a statement.

The ordinance, Judah said, “was passed by city councilmen who have the political support of national animal rights activist groups who wish to impose their will over others despite the unconstitutional nature of the ordinance.”

Mayfair House has operated in West Hollywood since about 2007, according to the lawsuit.  It has sold “and intends to continue to offer for sale and sell” products made in whole or part from fur, including parkas trimmed with coyote fur and Ugg boots containing shearling, according to the lawsuit.

Under the ordinance, a retailer caught selling fur can be charged with a misdemeanor if it receives more than three citations within a year.

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hailey.branson@latimes.com

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