Pets’ Pelts

In the early 1980s a dog skin industry flourished for some years in Madras – the brain-child of a research officer attached to the Municipal Corporation. The authorities in a bid to bring down the stray dog population in the city announced that the owners of caught dogs would have to claim them within 24 hours. Consequently up to 120 unclaimed dogs were electrocuted per day by making them stand in a metallic cage and passing a high-power electric current through it.

Flayers would then separate the skin from the flesh of the stiff dead carcasses. The tanned leather was used for making leather goods like fancy-cushions, wallets, handbags, jackets, footwear, vanity cases, etc. (Remember, Chennai city is home to the Central Leather Research Institute.)

They then tried to export the items, but luckily there were no takers for “dog leather” resulting in stocks being passed off as simply “leather”. Eventually this ghastly trade dwindled to a halt.

However, Chennai has not spared pet cats. Since October 2014 gypsies like the Narikoravas have been caught by People for Cattle in India (PFCI) for abducting and slaughtering cats for their meat and skin.

Imported Items – Undisclosed Origin

In comparison, the cat and dog fur industry of China, Thailand and Philippines has always flourished. Truly a horror story for dog- and cat-lovers... no wonder, after a long and vocal campaign focusing on Chinese fur products, supported by Sir Paul McCartney and others in 2007 the EU banned trade in cat and dog fur.

However, items made from cat and dog furs and skins are exported to other countries including India and they are not labelled so. One finds attractive and cute decorative fur items displayed in certain shops, even sold on roadsides. Being cheap, people buy them, little realising the origin. In 2022 India imported fur-skins worth Rs 14 crore ($1.68 million) from China.

These cat and dog fur knickknacks are imported mainly from China and are usually not labelled. If they are labelled, cat fur would be called Felis catus, Katzenfelle, Goyangi, house- wild- mountain- or wild-cat; whereas dog fur could be labelled as gae-wolf or sobaki and dog skin as special- lamb- or mountain goat-skin.

Each year millions of dogs and cats are skinned in China for their fur and skin and the finished products range from jackets & collar trims, gloves & linings, boot linings, handbags, belts, accessories, bed covers, toys, trinkets, knick-knacks and fancy home decorations.

In 2017 a Sky News investigation found real animal fur sold as fake on British high streets. They were either mis-labeled or not labelled at all. The furs were not only those of dogs and cats but other animals from China which included rabbit, racoon and mink.

Given the relationship between humans and dogs/cats, people who suspect the origin of such items to be the skins and furs of companion animals never buy them. But, unfortunately there are many more unsuspecting buyers. They can not imagine that real fur can be so cheap, leave alone it be pets’ pelts.

Investigations made by the Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade have found dogs hanging by the neck from wire nooses with water poured down their throats through a hose until they drowned. Many were skinned while still alive. They were cats and dogs that were once some one’s pets, rounded up, transported in sacks and crates, held in dingy buildings, often without food or water.

Like the EU, India also needs to impose a ban on import of dog and cat fur/skins. Beauty Without Cruelty therefore approached the Ministry of Commerce, Government of India, and following new trade developments between India and China in 2013, BWC requested the Director General of Foreign Trade, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Meanwhile, we request people to remember the cost of an item should never be the criteria for judging whether it is of animal origin or not. Very cheap stuff can contain fur, silk, leather – in this case an innocent pet cat or dog’s pelt.

Page last updated on 12/10/23